Integrating Special Populations

The Integrating Special Populations (ISP) initiative provides tools, helps make connections and encourages collaborations for researchers to effectively engage diverse study populations. ISP provides consultations and to increase the participation of special populations in research.


Through a collaboration with the Miami CTSI, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging (CNSA) is now a valuable resource available to the greater research community. The University of Miami CNSA focuses on understanding the aging brain and brain disorders through research, clinical care and education.

David Loewenstein, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., director of the CNSA and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, also serves as co-director of the Miami CTSI with a special focus on research across the lifespan. The collaboration between the CNSA and CTSI gives researchers access to CNSA’s consulting services that can expand their knowledge of social-behavioral IRB, recruiting aging populations, elderly minority populations, cognition, cognitive decline and aging.

CNSA’s Mission

“Our goal at the CNSA is to become world-class leaders in cognition and a destination center in Miami for the diagnosis, treatment and management of cognitive disorders,” says Loewenstein. “We want to be a resource for our university partners who want to work with special populations, such as geriatrics, and are doing research on aging.”

Since its establishment in 2018, the CNSA has received federal and state grants in excess of $10 million to support state of the art novel cognitive assessment, neuroimaging of the brain including amyloid and tau imaging, as well as memory disorders. CNSA researchers have also published more than 30 papers, and continue to develop and maintain relationships with the Miami CTSI and other UM departments and centers of excellence.

Promoting Team Science

One of the primary areas of synergy between the CTSI and CNSA is the focus on promoting team science through collaborations. The CNSA provides mentorship to K scholars and Pilot program awardees, as well as through interdisciplinary dissertation committees.

“Through mentorship and consultations, we help researchers with methodological design, biostatistics, population recruitment, consent, research questions and other study features focusing on the brain. Since the brain is so complex, there are many interconnections and variables that have to be taken into account,” says Loewenstein.

Study Design

When researchers work with aging populations, there are specific study design concerns that must be addressed. Older adults have more comorbidities and take more medications, which can affect study results.

“The issue of consent becomes very important when working with aging or cognitively impaired populations,” says Loewenstein. “Another problem is the perception that older adults have a lot of free time, so it’s easy to schedule them for research. But older adults have more doctors’ appointments and work commitments than many people.”

In cognitive research, overtaxing an older individual can skew research results. Understanding the subjects’ busy schedules, burdens and fatigue is crucial to good study design. Researchers must also be prepared to either provide transportation or do home visits when working with the elderly since transportation is a frequent problem.

Elderly minority populations may also view research from a different perspective and may want to know if researchers are committed to the community. “They want to know if you’re going to stay in the community and aren’t just there to use people for your research. It’s important to establish long-term roots in the community,” says Loewenstein.

Researchers with questions or who are interested in requesting a consultation with experts at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging should email CTSIS[email protected].


Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging
Focuses on generating patient-centered clinical research with an emphasis on cognitive disorders that affect an aging population.