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Timothy Hughes, PhD

Timothy Hughes, PhD, works to discover how our brains age and how age-related issues may contribute to development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with a focus on developing preventive strategies. Hughes uses detailed subclinical vascular measures and molecular signatures to identify new intervention strategies to improve brain health and prevent age-related cognitive disorders.

About Timothy Hughes

Trained as an epidemiologist, Hughes received a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2006 and his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. He received postdoctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh from 2011-2013 and at Wake Forest School of Medicine from 2013-2015. He began his professorship at Wake Forest in 2015.

In his research, Hughes seeks to identify functional biomarkers in the vascular system that may presage later development of neurocognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He believes that characterizing the function of the vascular system, as opposed to simply looking at pathology, will allow understanding of how a disease process occurs and propagates in the aging brain and lead to new treatments and prevention strategies.

His major, overarching interest is how vascular and metabolic disorders contribute to age-related changes in the brain that push us toward Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. When clinical symptoms of the disorders begin to appear, it is often too late for any intervention to be effective in halting or slowing the progress of the disease and cognitive decline.

Hughes believes strongly that most forms of dementia can be prevented by targeting vascular risk factors that can often be detected years, or even decades, before the onset of the disorders. Identifying risk factors and biomarkers leading to the development of innovative preventive strategies and treatments will help stave off the epidemic of dementia anticipated with the aging of the population.

Hughes has previously collaborated with industry partners on supplemental compounds that could be alternative fuels for the brain. He believes that additional partnerships could work to define new metabolic signatures of risk or new treatments targeted at improving vascular and brain health. The Wake Forest ADRC provides preclinical data and tests new products across the translational spectrum from basic models to humans, to develop translational strategies that will improve brain health and prevent cognitive problems associated with age and neurodegenerative disorders.


Timothy Hughes, PhD, assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine in the department of internal medicine and the department of epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest School of Medicine, core co-leader in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) at the Wake Forest Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), and site principal investigator for the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS), specializes in:

  • Vascular contributions to dementia
  • Cardiometabolic disorders and brain abnormalities
  • Cardiovascular epidemiology
  • Multimodal neuroimaging
  • Neuroepidemiology
  • Cognitive impairment and dementia
  • Prevention of age-related dementia and cognitive disorders