Walter A. Rocca, M.D., studies the causes and consequences of common neurological diseases, such as dementia and Parkinson's disease. The long-term goal of Dr. Rocca's research team is to develop strategies to prevent or better treat such diseases.
Dr. Rocca uses clinical information collected during routine medical care as well as information collected in special research interviews or exams. This research usually involves groups of subjects with or without a particular disease or with or without a particular risk or protective factor. The data collected from the study participants are analyzed using epidemiologic or statistical techniques.
Dr. Rocca's work has been funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health.
- Are neurological disorders different in men and women? Neurological disorders, such as dementia, Parkinson's disease and stroke, are different in men and women because of genetic, hormonal and sociocultural differences, a phenomenon known as dimorphic neurology. Dr. Rocca is studying the effects of menopause and estrogen on brain aging in women.
- What are the causes of Parkinson's disease? Dr. Rocca has contributed extensively to the understanding of risk factors or predictors of higher risk of Parkinson's disease, such as head trauma, pesticides exposure and anemia, and protective factors or predictors of lower risk, such as coffee consumption and smoking.
- What are the causes of dementia and mild cognitive impairment? Dr. Rocca is one of the methodologists for the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Olmsted County, Minn. This study focuses on prevalence, incidence, risk and protective factors, and biomarkers for mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
Dr. Rocca also directs the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a medical records linkage system. This is one of the few records databases in the world in which medical record information is stored and linked over time across multiple institutions. The system has been in existence for almost 50 years.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Rocca's research into risk or protective factors for neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, dementia and stroke, helps prevent and better treat these diseases in both men and women.
- Member, editorial board, Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society (2009-present), Maturitas: The European Menopause Journal (2008-present), Clinical Epidemiology (2008-present)
- Chair, Clinical Research Subcommittee, American Academy of Neurology, 2007-present
- Member, the Science Committee and the Research Council, American Academy of Neurology, 2007-present
- Best Paper of the Year Award, Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, North American Menopause Society/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009
- Surgical Menopause Research Award, North American Menopause Society and Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc., 2008