by Susan McCurry, Ph.D.
Dr. Jim Leverenz is an associate professor in the University of Washington Department of Neurology and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He is also a staff neurologist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. At the VA, he is associated with two research/clinical centers – the Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), and the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Center (PADRECC). Finally, Dr. Leverenz is also affiliated with the ADRC clinical core. Asked to describe a typical day, he responded, “I don’t have a typical day; the variety in my job is one of the things that I enjoy the most about my work.”
Dr. Leverenz completed his undergraduate training in biology and psychology at the University of Washington. During this time, he became interested in the relationship between brain activity and human behavior. After working as a research assistant studying Alzheimer’s disease with Drs. Donna Cohen and Carl Eisdorfer at the UW, Leverenz graduated from the UW medical school. He subsequently completed a residency in neurology at Cornell Medical School in New York, and a fellowship in neuropathology at University of Chicago before returning to Seattle in 1992.
Dr. Leverenz’s job includes a combination of clinical, research, and teaching activities. He is particularly interested in the dementias associated with Lewy bodies, such as dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease with dementia. He sees patients with these disorders, in addition to other dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, in the VA Movement and Memory Clinic he helps train medical students, neurology and psychiatry residents, as well as medical professionals in the community, in the diagnosis and treatment of dementias. His primary research focuses on the distribution of brain changes (such as Lewy bodies) associated with dementia and other disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. In addition, he collaborates with other UW ADRC investigators looking for biomarkers, such as chemicals in spinal fluid, that could improve our ability to make an accurate disease diagnosis or monitor the rate of disease progression or response to therapy. Dr. Leverenz is also interested in the relationship between Down’s syndrome and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. By blending his clinical, research, and teaching activities, he is able to make a difference on many levels. “I like the fact that I can help people both by learning more about the basic biology of these diseases as well as by directly helping patients, and their families, who have these diseases in our clinics,” he says.
Dr. Leverenz is currently recruiting for his research studies with Parkinson’s disease patients; any persons who have been diagnosed with PD who would like more information should contact Beth Hutchings at the ADRC (206-277-6558).
When Jim is not at work he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, particularly his 17-year-old son “before he graduates and disappears from my life!” His daughter just finished college and is a teacher in the New York public school system, which he says is “a real experience.” Jim is a movie buff and he also enjoys running, although recent injuries have kept him from doing that as much as he would like.