APA member since: 1981. Fellow beginning this year.
Occupation: Overseeing the Geriatric Neuropsychology Laboratory and clinical training program in geriatric neuropsychology at the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center within the VA Boston Healthcare System where he is the associate director for research.
Top research interest: His lab uses imaging to measure structural variations in the brain as they relate to variations in risk for the cognitive disorders of aging and dementia. The researchers' goal is to determine how such differences relate to human cognition and functioning.
Take-home message from his findings: Drop the chocolate chip cookies and get moving. The cognitive diseases that come with aging appear to be closely linked to our heart health. "It's all the usual suspects of diet and exercise," says Milberg. "Once you're on the road toward impaired cardiac and metabolic function, you may also be on the road to impaired brain function."
Future forecast: Milberg says we're not far away from being able to use imaging to identify red flags in younger adults. "Even in just the last couple of years, brain technology has become incredibly precise." Not only can it measure structure, it can show neurochemical differences and how well the blood supply is distributed within the neuronal environment. These are all clues to how well our brains are working.
Favorite behind-the-scenes collaborator: His wife, Nancy, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist. "She has a different angle on every problem and her insights are tremendously helpful," he says. "She has taught me to think about the costs of making false positive errors when making neuropsychological diagnoses." The couple met in graduate school, have been together since 1978 and have two boys, ages 16 and 20.
Greatest obstacle: Funding. "I'd rather be thinking deeply about the science than working constantly to get funding to do the science," he laments.
Greatest hope: Better understanding the starting point of age-related cognitive diseases. "I want to be able to turn the clock back to the early stages and find out whether there are interventions that would prevent disease before it's too late."
How he unwinds: Playing guitar. "I'm a frustrated, bad jazz guitarist." He experimented with the instrument in high school but abandoned it as his studies took off. Fifteen years ago, his wife gave him a new guitar that he plays in the evenings, sometimes in front of the TV, envisioning the "fantasy life" he set aside for psychology.
Future goal: "To avoid what it is I'm seeing in aging people and to continue to work on the problem."
Each month, "Random Sample" introduces you to a randomly chosen APA member. You might be next.