Howard Rosen, MD

Professor of Neurology

Dr. Howard Rosen is a behavioral neurologist with more than 17 years of experience in the research and clinical care of neurodegenerative diseases. He was one of the core faculty members that established the UCSF Memory and Aging Center (MAC) in 1999 and has continued to play a central role in the MAC’s growth. He is the Associate Director of the federally funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UCSF and is Director of the California State Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UCSF. Dr. Rosen’s research has focused on the characterization of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which presents with changes in social, emotional and language functions. He was an early adopter of unbiased whole brain analysis of gray matter atrophy, such as voxel morphometry for neurodegenerative disease. His work helped to establish the specificity of atrophy patterns in FTLD, highlighting the involvement of medial and orbital frontal regions and insula in this disorder, and linking changes in this system to specific behavioral abnormalities seen in patients. In addition, Dr. Rosen has used methods from emotions research to characterize the emotional deficit in FTLD, showing that FTLD patients have difficulty understanding others’ emotions, and more recently examining the role of impaired emotional processing in causing impaired self-awareness in FTLD.

Over the last few years, most of Dr. Rosen’s work has focused on developing new imaging-based measures for disease progression in FTLD, including both symptomatic groups of patients and those at high risk for developing FTLD because of autosomal dominant mutations. He led a recently completed multi-center study of FTLD that examined how the disease changes over time using multiple types of brain imaging, PET and multiple types of MRI, in order to compare the potential value of these different techniques for following progression and to link them to clinical changes occurring over time. Currently, he is co-leading two multi-center efforts to study members of families affected by FTLD longitudinally, using multimodal imaging in order to understand the effects of mutations on cognitive and behavioral function, as well as brain imaging both before and after overt symptoms of impairment appear. These studies are designed to improve our ability to develop treatments that would ameliorate or delay the onset of FTLD, and the lessons learned from these studies will be valuable for understanding the early evolution of neurodegenerative disease in many contexts. Furthermore, Dr. Rosen has a strong commitment to mentoring and education. He is director of the UCSF Behavioral Neurology Training Program and has mentored nearly 50 pre- and post-doctoral trainees, most of whom have contributed to publications and many of whom have gone on to become independent researchers.

Photo by Elisabeth Fall