photo of Winston Chiong

Winston Chiong, MD PhD

Principal Investigator
winston.chiong (at)
Scholar Citations

I see myself as having three main jobs, which (I hope) inform one another. I am a behavioral neurologist, and my clinical practice focuses on Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and other cognitive disorders of aging. I am also a cognitive neuroscientist, applying observations from clinic to investigate why patients like mine are vulnerable to making bad decisions. Third, I am a neuroethicist, working alongside other clinicians, researchers, and policymakers to address the ethical and social implications of changes in decision-making due to altered brain function.

I studied philosophy as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. During medical school here at UCSF, I took a leave to pursue a PhD in philosophy at NYU, where I studied with Thomas Nagel and Derek Parfit. After residency training in neurology back at UCSF, I did a combined fellowship in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging with Mark D’Esposito at UC Berkeley and in behavioral neurology here at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center.

Alongside my clinical and research work, I am a member of the UCSF Department of Neurology Diversity Committee and the UCSF Medical Center Ethics Committee. Nationally, I serve on the Neuroethics Working Group of the National Institutes of Health BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Multi-Council Working Group, and the American Academy of Neurology’s Ethics, Law and Humanities Committee.

photo of Tobias Haeusermann

Tobias Haeusermann, PhD

tobias.haeusermann (at)

I am a Sociologist and Postdoctoral Fellow in the UCSF Department of Neurology Memory and Aging Center, where my research aims to elucidate the ethical concerns in existing clinical applications of closed-loop neuromodulation in epilepsy as well as movement and mood disorders. I am also part of UCSF’s Institute for Health Policy Studies and its newly established Medical Cultures Lab, a collaborative of social scientists working on methods innovations and the culture of medicine.

I received my PhD and Master of Philosophy degrees in sociology from the University of Cambridge, where I remain an Affiliated Researcher. During my doctoral studies I held a Research Fellowship at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research and was a member of its Long-term Care and Dementia group. I then conducted postdoctoral research at the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute of the University of Zurich and for the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zurich. Thereafter, I taught as student supervisor at the University of Cambridge for the “Introduction to Sociology:Modern Societies I” and the paper “Social Context of Health and Illness” and was a visiting fellow at the Ethox Centre, University of Oxford.

I am particularly interested in how medical knowledge and care practices are interpreted differently in distinct cultural settings. Beyond these specific research domains, I am also interested in aging studies, the sociology of health and illness, comparative ethnographic research, and qualitative research methodologies.

photo of Clara Sanches

Clara Sanches, PhD

clara.sanches (at)

Movements are files of a person’s life, learned, reproduced, and altered as needed. There are external movements, those that make us act on objects and internal movements, an energy that we use in space and time. My interest in the body as a ‘depository of human expressiveness’ led me to a degree in Psychomotor Therapy with a Master’s specialization in old age and mental health (University of Lisbon). An enriching experience with an aging population triggered my interest in old age, and I realized how much I still had to learn about the biological and physiological mechanisms of aging and the disruptions that lead to age-related diseases.

My Master in Integrative Biology and Physiology, with specialization in Cognitive Neurosciences (Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris), provided me with the basis for understanding brain aging mechanisms. My enthusiasm in this domain propelled me to pursue a PhD in Cognitive Neurosciences (Sorbonne University) at the Paris Brain Institute, working in the field of language in neurodegenerative diseases and the use of transcranial stimulation as a possible therapeutic approach. As movements, each word also has a biography that is related to the biography of the person using it. Understanding how one’s language abilities are affected during a disease process is another piece in the complex domain of neurodegeneration and its consequences on one’s identity.

I am interested in understanding how an individual responds to aging in different spheres of life and how the identification of altered mechanisms in pathological aging can help prevent early cognitive and functional decline. By joining the Decision Lab at the Memory and Aging Center, I am excited to explore how the process of decision-making is affected and which are the neural basis that subtends decision-making alterations.

photo of Clayton Young

Clayton Young

Research Coordinator
clayton.young (at)

My curiosity about human behavior’s underlying mechanisms led me to become a UC Davis biopsychology major, where I spent my time as an undergraduate entrenched in cognitive neuroscience research. I was fortunate enough to work under the guidance of (then) graduate student, Dr. Trevor Brothers, whose contagious passion for linguistics, desire to teach, and electrophysiological expertise gifted me the foundation necessary to work in Dr. Steve Luck’s Laboratory for Basic and Translational Cognitive Neuroscience. After getting a grasp on EEG/ERPs and extending my interest in language processing to attention and visual working memory, I decided to take a break from research and gain clinical experience as a psychometrist in hopes of understanding cognition from a different vantage point. Combining my clinical and research experience, I was eager to revisit academia and join the Decision Lab to contribute to science once again.

Upon joining the lab, I started working on the Decision-Making in Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias study, where I collected data and began analyzing our Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preferences data. I later transitioned to developing E-Prime and Qualtrics instruments during my ownership of organizing the multi-national ALLFTD (ARTFL-LEFFTDS) recruitment for our Genes, Brains and Decisions project. Although my responsibilities have recently shifted to see that the lab runs smoothly, I hope to continue developing my understanding of behavioral economics, programming, and statistics.

When I’m not working, I enjoy singing songs about my favorite Liverpool FC players, rock climbing, playing soccer, and, more recently, unsuccessfully prospecting for gold!

photo of Celeste Fong

Celeste Fong

Research Coordinator
celeste.fong (at)

The Decision Lab is the perfect home for my interdisciplinary interests. I received my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I conducted research on Alzheimer’s disease. While there I also took several philosophy courses, which introduced me to the field of bioethics. I became so enamored with the subject that I went to study for a Master’s in Bioethics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I had the opportunity to conduct work with a lab studying deep brain stimulation as a potential therapy for treatment resistant depression. My thesis project analyzed patient perspectives to respond to the ethical concerns and implications of DBS for depression, particularly as it relates to themes of identity.

My experience in neuroethics and neurotechnology led me to San Francisco and UCSF, where I work as a research coordinator in the Decision Lab for the Neuroethics in Novel Neurotechnologies study. The project involves observing and interviewing patients, caregivers, and providers in order to identify and respond to concerns regarding the ethics of closed-loop deep brain stimulation. I see value in the perspectives that these narratives can provide as we develop best practices for novel neurotechnologies. More broadly, however, I am also curious as to how such advancements in therapeutic technologies can challenge our society’s perception of itself and its values. Beyond this project, I also organize the Neuroethics Seminar, a twice-monthly interdisciplinary discussion on ethics-related questions that arise from neuroscience research and clinical neurology practice.

In my free time, I enjoy keeping up to date with the newest films and shows, trying to find the best bites in San Francisco, and pretending that I am half as good at rock climbing as the rest of the SF population.

photo of Ashley Jackson

Ashley Jackson

Research Coordinator
ashley.jackson3 (at)

I am transitioning from a former career as a Ballet dancer to a field of medicine, science, and groundbreaking clinical research. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Performing Arts Degree in the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program at Saint Mary’s College of California. I am also earning an Associate’s degree in the field of Biological Sciences at Canada College. Among several extracurricular activities, I also enjoyed being a part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society.

While focusing on my artistry as a ballerina, I enjoyed traveling the world and experiencing unique cultures. In my dance career, I was awarded the Princess Grace Award, a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Performing Arts Medal, and the Chris Hellman Award, among other newspaper and magazine features. While I appreciate and value my time in the dance world, I always knew that I would like to go into medicine one day.

I discovered my passion for research during my time as an NIH researcher in the Bridges to Baccalaureate Program through SF State University. In this program, I acquired laboratory skills and presented on various research projects. I enjoy volunteering at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and at Shanti Project, where I was grateful to be named the Spotlight Volunteer in Shanti’s Spring 2019 Newsletter. I am thrilled to provide emotional support and practical assistance for both children in the hospital and assisting aging adults with disabilities in Shanti.

Compassion for our elderly with dementia is a value that is essential in society, so I am incredibly interested in researching and assisting with projects that enhance their quality of life. This is one of many reasons I believe in and value the research at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and why I’m excited about the work that I am doing as a member of the Decision lab, specifically on the Genes, Brains and Decisions Project. The insightful knowledge, experience, and abilities I will learn while working at UCSF’s world-class facility will better prepare me for my future as a physician and researcher.

In my spare time, I enjoy swimming, hiking, reading, and Pilates.

photo of Brandon Leggins

Brandon Leggins

Research Coordinator
brandon.leggins (at)

I am a recent UC Berkeley graduate who majored in Psychology and minored in Public Policy.

At Berkeley, I was a psychology peer advisor, marketing research intern, research assistant, and library circulation assistant. These positions allowed me to meet and assist many people from diverse backgrounds, and I’m excited to continue this practice at the Decision Lab and UCSF Memory and Aging Center.

My research interest sparked when I became a research assistant at the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab, where I researched awe and psychophysiology. I loved working with participants, brainstorming new techniques, and analyzing the results. My time in this lab has taught me valuable lifelong skills and has reiterated that I want to impact and help others through research.

After taking coursework in Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, I was eager to learn more about mental and aging disorders, which ultimately led me to the Decision Lab. Studying case studies of patients with dementia emphasized how much is still unknown. The complexity and debilitating effects of aging disorders have motivated me to work with this clinical population. I am grateful to be a part of the Decision Lab, where I have the opportunity to discover unanswered questions about dementia and fundamentally improve care for patients from all backgrounds.

I enjoy playing basketball, playing video games, hiking, and watching anime in my free time.

photo of Rea Antoniou

Rea Antoniou

Associate Specialist
rea.antoniou (at)

I first obtained my BA in psychology (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece). As a bachelor thesis student, I was introduced to the fascinating world of research by undertaking a behavioral study probing the association between cheating, creativity and moral reasoning. The question which psychological mechanisms tilt our moral compass sparked my interest. However, pieces were definitely missing from understanding such a perplex topic in depth.

My MS in Neural and Behavioural Sciences (University of Tubingen, Germany) provided a bigger piece to the puzzle by giving me the opportunity to work out interdisciplinary questions such as how cognitive enhancers affect cheating upon monetary payoff (Oxford University, UK) and how arousal mediates different contexts of lying (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Germany).

Now, being part of the Decision Lab at the Memory and Aging Center, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to add another, major piece, dementia. In other words, investigating conditions characterized notably by impairment of memory and judgment. In the lab, I am responsible for fMRI task design, data collection and analysis for the Decision-Making in Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias and the Online Studies of Decision-Making in Healthy Aging projects. Some questions I am eager to examine is how moral reasoning, dishonest behavior and overall value based decision making processes are altered in different types of dementia, including corresponding brain areas.

In my free time I enjoy dancing, hiking and camping. When I experience a rush of adrenaline I am most likely trying to surf.

photo of Noah Cryns

Noah Cryns

Assistant Clinical Research Coordinator
noah.cryns (at)

As an undergraduate, I attended UC Berkeley, where I developed a fascination for the brain and behavior, prompting me to pursue a degree in neurobiology. At Berkeley, I studied in the lab of Dr. Linda Wilbrecht where I completed an honors thesis investigating adolescent exploration, risk-taking, and reward-seeking behaviors and their neurophysiological correlates. During this time, I developed a passion for research, particularly reward processing and decision making, and how the dysfunction of these processes is relevant to disease and addiction.

Experiences outside of academics have been instrumental in helping to refine my interests. For example, I work as a crisis counselor, assisting folks in getting through challenging moments in their lives. I also volunteered at the Alzheimer’s Services of the East Bay. I found interacting with and working to improve the quality of life for older individuals of all backgrounds to be critical and fulfilling, and I resolved to fuse this meaningful work with my passion for research. I became particularly interested in studying dementia, as this topic is personal to me, and there is still so much to understand about different dementias.

I am extremely excited to be working as a clinical research coordinator in both the Decision Lab and the lab of Dr. David Perry. The research conducted by these groups integrates my interests in decision making, reward processing, and neurodegenerative disease and allows me to contribute to research that will improve the diagnostic accuracy of dementia and allow for effective treatment. I look forward to learning more about this complex disease and hope our work can help patients and their loved ones to cope with its often debilitating effects.

In my spare time, I enjoy surfing, playing basketball, playing soccer, running and music.

affiliate members

photo of Loren Gotingco

Loren Gotingco

Student Intern
lvgotingco (at)

I am an undergraduate student enrolled in a four-year BSN program with a minor in gerontology at the University of San Francisco. Through my experiences in both hospital and clinic-settings, I have been fortunate enough to interact with individuals of various walks of life. It is because of these relationships that I have learned the importance of being an earnest advocate for older adults and raising awareness about the diseases of aging within the larger community.

Currently, I volunteer at Mabuhay Health Center, a student-run clinic that provides health-related services to residents, mainly of Filipino-American descent, living in the South of Market district in San Francisco. As a second generation Filipino-American, I hope to be part of the effort in increasing diversity and inclusion within healthcare.

My interest in research sparked when I began to explore nursing informatics as a possible career path. I was intrigued by how informatics nurses are able to analyze trends and bring innovative, advanced systems to life through the use of data found from research. At the Decision Lab and UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center, I am able to explore my professional interests and serve a rapidly growing community of people in need by engaging in the studies of dementia and aging.

In my free time, I enjoy eating good food and rollerblading to stay active. I also love watching films and listening to K-pop, specifically Blackpink!

photo of Sheila Tran

Sheila Tran

Student Intern
tran.t.sheila (at)

I’m an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley pursuing a B.A. in Integrative Biology with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician. At Berkeley, I served as a reading mentor at an under-resourced elementary school in Oakland through B.U.I.L.D., and am engaged in our Labor Coach Program and the Biology Scholars Program. Outside of school, I volunteer as a crisis text counselor with Crisis Text Line, in which I support texters during their most difficult moments and empower them to make their own plans for safety.

My first introduction through research was in a psychology lab through the Stanford R.I.S.E. Program. It was there that I saw how research could impact the lives of individuals like myself, how its specificity and thoughtfulness could intervene on and validate problems whose importance may not have been emphasized in the past. Having seen how dementia has affected my grandmother and the apparent cultural challenges of coping with illness, the research being done at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center are personal to me. I’m excited to work with both the Program Project Grant and the Decision Lab to work towards real change and discovery in the field. In doing so, I’m confident that these experiences will help me become a compassionate physician and researcher in the future.

In my free time, I love to play and create music on the piano, make coffee, and read.


Heather Ma
Medical Student (at)
Effect of a collaborative dementia care model on advance directive possession
Carson Quinn
Medical Student
carson.quinn (at)
COMT Val158Met polymorphism associated with greater susceptibility to framing effects in healthy older adults


Ivy Huang, MD
previously: Undergraduate Research Assistant
now: Resident Physician, UCLA Department of Surgery
Chiong W, Kim AS, Huang IA, Farahany NA, Josephson SA. Inability to consent does not diminish the desirability of stroke thrombolysis. Annals of Neurology. 2014; 76(2):296-304.
Chiong W, Kim AS, Huang IA, Farahany NA, Josephson SA. Testing the presumption of consent to emergency treatment for acute ischemic stroke. JAMA. 2014; 311(16):1689-91.
William Feldman, MD DPhil
previously: Medical Student
now: Associate Physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care
Feldman WB, Kim AS, Chiong W. Trends in recruitment rates for acute stroke trials, 1990-2014. Stroke. 2017; 48(3):799-801.
Feldman WB, Kim AS, Josephson SA, Lowenstein DH, Chiong W. Effect of waivers of consent on recruitment in acute stroke trials: A systematic review. Neurology. 2016; 86(16):1543-51.
Alex Beagle, MD
previously: Research Coordinator, then Medical Student
now: Resident Physician, UCSF Department of Medicine
Beagle AJ, Zahir A, Borzello M, Kayser AS, Hsu M, Miller BL, Kramer JH, Chiong W. Amount and delay insensitivity during intertemporal choice in three neurodegenerative diseases reflects dorsomedial prefrontal atrophy. Cortex. 2020; 124:54-65.
Chiong W, Wood KA, Beagle AJ, Hsu M, Kayser AS, Miller BL, Kramer JH. Neuroeconomic dissociation of semantic dementia and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Brain. 2016; 139(2):578-87.
Mia Borzello
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Graduate Student, UCSD Department of Cognitive Science
Beagle AJ, Zahir A, Borzello M, Kayser AS, Hsu M, Miller BL, Kramer JH, Chiong W. Amount and delay insensitivity during intertemporal choice in three neurodegenerative diseases reflects dorsomedial prefrontal atrophy. Cortex. 2020; 124:54-65.
Quinn CM, Borzello M, Zahir A, Kramer JH, Chiong W. COMT Val158Met polymorphism associated with greater susceptibility to framing effects in healthy older adults. bioRxiv. 2019. [unrefereed preprint]
Ali Zahir
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Medical Student, UCSF School of Medicine
Zahir A, Staffaroni AM, Wickham RE, Quinn CM, Sapozhnikova A, Seidman J, Chiong W. Caregiver “objective attitude” toward patients with neurodegenerative disease: Consequences for caregiver strain and relationship closeness. Aging & Mental Health. 2020; 1-7.
Beagle AJ, Zahir A, Borzello M, Kayser AS, Hsu M, Miller BL, Kramer JH, Chiong W. Amount and delay insensitivity during intertemporal choice in three neurodegenerative diseases reflects dorsomedial prefrontal atrophy. Cortex. 2020; 124:54-65.
Quinn CM, Borzello M, Zahir A, Kramer JH, Chiong W. COMT Val158Met polymorphism associated with greater susceptibility to framing effects in healthy older adults. bioRxiv. 2019. [unrefereed preprint]
Julia Heunis, MD
previously: Medical Student
now: Resident Physician, Boston Children's Hospital
Bernstein A, Merrilees J, Dulaney S, Harrison KL, Chiong W, Ong P, Heunis J, Choi J, Walker R, Feuer JE, Lee K, Dohan D, Bonasera SJ, Miller BL, Possin KL. Using care navigation to address caregiver burden in dementia: A qualitative case study analysis. Alzheimer's & Dementia. 2020; 6:e12010.
Bernstein A, Harrison KL, Dulaney S, Merrilees J, Bowhay A, Heunis J, Choi J, Feuer JE, Clark AM, Chiong W, Lee K, Braley TL, Bonasera SJ, Ritchie C, Dohan D, Miller BL, Possin KL. The role of care navigators working with people with dementia and their caregivers. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 2019; 71(1):45-55.
Merrilees JJ, Bernstein A, Dulaney S, Heunis J, Walker R, Rah E, Choi J, Gawlas K, Carroll S, Ong P, Feuer J, Braley T, Clark AM, Lee K, Chiong W, Bonasera SJ, Miller BL, Possin KL. The Care Ecosystem: Promoting self-efficacy among dementia family caregivers. Dementia. 2018.
Possin KL, Merrilees J, Bonasera SJ, Bernstein A, Chiong W, Lee K, Wilson L, Hooper SM, Dulaney S, Braley T, Laohavanich S, Feuer JE, Clark AM, Schaffer MW, Schenk AK, Heunis J, Ong P, Cook KM, Bowhay AD, Gearhart R, Chodos A, Naasan G, Bindman AB, Dohan D, Ritchie C, Miller BL. Development of an adaptive, personalized, and scalable dementia care program: Early findings from the Care Ecosystem. PLoS Medicine. 2017; 14(3):e1002260.
Neil Vaishnav, MD JD LLM
previously: Medical Student
now: Resident Physician, UCSF Department of Medicine
Vaishnav NH, Chiong W. Informed consent for the human research subject with a neurologic disorder. Seminars in Neurology. 2018; 38(5):539-547.
Madhu Manivannan
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Medical Student, Emory School of Medicine
Heather Romero-Kornblum
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Graduate Student, UCSD Rady School of Management
Lindbergh CA, Romero-Kornblum H, Weiner-Light S, Young JC, Fonseca C, You M, Wolf A, Staffaroni AM, Daly R, Jeste DV, Kramer JH, Chiong W, the Hillblom Aging Network. Wisdom and fluid intelligence are dissociable in healthy older adults. International Psychogeriatrics. 2021;1–11.
Antoniou R, Romero-Kornblum H, Young JC, You M, Kramer JH, Chiong W. No utilitarians in a pandemic? Shifts in moral reasoning during the COVID-19 global health crisis. PsyArXiv. [unrefereed preprint]
Cailin Lechner
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Law Student, UC Davis School of Law
Haeusermann T, Lechner CR, Fong KC, Bernstein Sideman A, Jaworska A, Chiong W, Dohan D. Closed-loop neuromodulation and self-perception in clinical treatment of refractory epilepsy. AJOB Neuroscience. 2021; 1–13.
Mergenthaler JV, Chiong W, Dohan D, Feler J, Lechner CR, Starr PA, Arias JJ. A qualitative analysis of ethical perspectives on recruitment and consent for human intracranial electrophysiology studies. AJOB Neuroscience. 2021; 12(1):57-67.
Sang Ngo
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Medical Student, UCLA School of Medicine
Ngo S, Kim AS, Chiong W. Evidence for the ethics of incentivizing clinical trial enrollment? JAMA Internal Medicine. 2021.
Emily Hardy
previously: Research Coordinator
now: Medical Student, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine