Dr. Keith Vossel, who is known for his discovery that many Alzheimer’s patients experience nighttime seizures that disrupt their sleep, is the new director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA

Vossel, who started the position on July 31, first noticed the seizure activity in mice, which led him to investigate whether the same phenomenon might be occurring in people as well. By monitoring patients overnight, he detected the seizures, which appear to accelerate cognitive decline.

He subsequently studied whether antiseizure medication improved learning and memory in mice. He also investigated how the protein tau, which builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, plays a role in seizure activity.

“I’ve had the rare privilege to study a scientific question both in animals and humans, and come up with therapies that can be tried directly in our patients,” he said. “This is one of the things I envision for the growing Alzheimer’s center at UCLA.”

Before coming to UCLA, Vossel completed fellowship training in behavioral neurology and postdoctoral training in neurodegenerative disease laboratory research at UC San Francisco and Gladstone Institutes, where he began the seizure study. From UCSF, he moved to the University of Minnesota, where he was an associate professor of neurology and scholar in the Institute for Translational Neuroscience.

Vossel’s research has been recognized with prestigious awards from the National Institutes of Health. He’s also received the Wallin Discovery Neuroscience Award, the Beeson Career Development Award in Aging and the John Douglas French Distinguished Research Award.

Vossel replaced interim director Dr. Gregory Cole, who served in the position since 2016. Vossel said he is looking forward to building on the strengths of the UCLA-Easton Center.

“Our plan is to grow the center’s expertise in areas of neuroimaging, stem cell biology and precision medicine,” he said. Additionally, he plans to extend more opportunities to the Los Angeles community for participating in research studies.

“The center is already collaborating with a lot of clinician neurologists in the community,” Vossel said. “I’d like to expand the diversity of the clinical research population beyond UCLA Health and Olive View Medical Center, and incorporate patients from the Memory Disorders Clinic and the Martin Luther King, Jr. outpatient center into the research.”