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Current Lab Members

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Zvinka Zlatar, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Dr. Zlatar received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Florida with a focus on adult neuropsychology/geropsychology. She completed her APA-accredited clinical psychology internship at the University of California, Los Angeles (Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior), focusing on the neuropsychological assessment of older adults and Spanish-speaking adults. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neurocognitive aging at the University of California, San Diego with an emphasis on imaging the neural substrates of physical activity in older adults. In 2016, she joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego, where she currently conducts research developing behavioral interventions to promote healthy brain and cognitive aging.

Dr. Zlatar is the Principal Investigator of the WISE Lab (Wellness Initiative for Senior Enrichment). The WISE Lab investigates the neural mechanisms by which behavioral factors and lifestyle interventions (such as exercise and diet) affect brain plasticity and cognition in aging. For this purpose, the WISE lab uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain structure and perfusion (arterial spin labeling MRI); standard neuropsychological tests to assess cognitive function; accelerometry to capture physical activity and sedentary time; cardiorespiratory treadmill testing to measure fitness levels; and dietary recall to assess dietary changes. 


Rosa Gutierrez Aceves
Research Coordinator
Rosa has served as a research coordinator for large clinical trial studies focused on adult mental illness for over 13 years. She is experienced within the clinical trial studies as a bilingual and cross-cultural community health worker with community clinics and independent living facilities for people with disabilities. She has successfully managed demanding caseloads, which included elderly people and people with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues.  



Marina Zaher Nakhla
Graduate Student

Marina Zaher Nakhla graduated from CSU Northridge with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Master's degree in Clinical Psychology. She is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology.

Marina is a Strategic Enhancement of Excellence through Diversity (SEED) fellow and a graduate researcher in both Dr. Zvinka Zlatar's WISE Laboratory and Dr. Dawn Schiehser's Neurocognition and Movement Laboratory. Her research interests involve cognitive aging, as well as the intersection between neuropsychological disorders, physical disability, and mental health. She also has interests in working with underrepresented populations in both research and clinical practice.


Gisselle Santiago
Undergraduate Student

Gisselle is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC San Diego majoring in Human Biology and Global Health. She is currently on the pre-med track and hopes to attend medical school after taking a gap year to work in the field. She is interested in learning more about how neurodegenerative diseases affect minority populations, specifically for Hispanics/Latinos.