Aoki Foundation

Grant Allocations / Recipients Summary




Lou Ruvo Center

Brain Health Fellowship


Project Summary

Support will help fund a Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry fellow (for one year) – training the next generation of brain health innovators. Those who train at Cleveland Clinic gain unique experience by working alongside world-renowned faculty and in an environment that honors excellence and innovation. We are dedicated to sharing our knowledge and expertise with the physicians of the future. Aoki Foundation support will help the Cleveland Clinic meet the specialized needs of our patients and continue to develop breakthrough treatments to advance neurological care.


The Brain Health Fellowships provides an opportunity for general neurologists and psychiatrists to pursue further graduate medical education, subspecializing in the research, identification, and treatment of degenerative brain diseases. Fellows care for patients under the guidance of the director and other faculty who provide feedback, and they participate in research that works to hasten discoveries in neurodegenerative disease.


Bright Focus Foundation

Alzheimer’s in the Human Brain: Focusing on One Neuron at a Time, Dr. Inma Cobos, UCLA


Project Summary

A close look at brain tissue from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients reveals that only some types of neurons have tau neurofibrillary tangles or others signs of neurodegeneration, while others in close vicinity appear healthy. What makes some neurons more vulnerable or resistant to disease? We are using a new technique, called single cell RNA sequencing, to isolate thousands of single neurons from human brain tissue, study all the genes that are expressed in each individual cell, and make cell-to-cell comparisons between normal, early stage and late stage AD. Our studies will clarify the precise identity of neurons involved by pathology and undergoing cell death in AD, and point to the main molecular pathways that confer vulnerability or resistance to disease.


Aoki Foundation grant covers approximately half of the requested costs for the supplies needed for one year of this three-year project.


Alzheimer’s Los Angeles

Memory Mornings


Project Summary

Provides activities that focus on art, music, cognitive stimulation, and socialization for people living with the disease.


Cure Alzheimer’s Fund:

Exercise May Generate New Neurons in the Brain, Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D., and Se Hoon Choi, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital


Project Summary

Imagine a future where the beneficial effects of exercise could be recreated in a brain ravaged by the cell loss, plaques, and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease. To this end, it would be crucial to first determine the biochemical changes that could improve memory in a brain experiencing the early stages of dementia. A giant step forward uncovered how exercise and neurogenesis work collaboratively to enhance the likelihood that new neurons will survive to play a role in protecting against cognitive decline.


ICAN (Scott Elliott): General Support





Robert H. Baloh, MD, PhD, Cedars Sinai

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis research


Project Summary

Dr. Robert Baloh and his expert team have pushed the boundaries of neurodegenerative disease research, driven with the goal of understanding the cellular mechanisms involved in the development and progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as they investigate the influence of genetics and other potential risk factors, identify biomarkers, and develop new and more treatments.


One of the team’s vital research focus is on investigating Mitochondria which are organelles derived from primordial bacteria, that are the central hub of energy metabolism in all cells. Neurons consume large amounts of energy, much of which needs to be supplied by mitochondria to a long extension from the cell body called the axon, which is equivalent to a living electrical cable that travels great distances from the cell body to transmit signals to other neurons or to muscles and allow movement. We have found that increasing the levels or function of a protein called Mitofusin at the surface of mitochondria improves their ability to provide energy and resiststress and is protective in disease models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Therefore, we have initiated a project to identify ways to increase Mitofusin levels using drugs or gene therapy and are testing these in models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.



Duke University, Dr. Murali Doraiswamy

Brain Neuroplasticity Fund


Project Summary

Support research into developing blood based biomarkers for evaluating disease risk in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and for testing the efficacy of novel neuro-regenerative therapies, such as gene therapy.


Ashley Mason, UCSF: $15,000

Heat and Depression Research


Project Summary

Dr. Ashley E. Mason, assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Core Research Faculty for the Osher Center, will soon lead a clinical trial of wholebody hyperthermia as a body-based treatment for depression. Heat practices, including sweat lodges, saunas, and hot yoga, appear across cultures as healing practices for physical and mental ailments. Recent discoveries suggest that elevating core body temperature can prompt durable improvements in depression, but additional research is needed.


Dr. Mason is interested in exploring whole-body hyperthermia as a non-pharmacologic treatment that can be integrated with other approaches, such as psychotherapy, to optimize treatment outcomes. In the next phase of her research, Dr. Mason will lead a dose-escalation study to evaluate the number of whole-body hyperthermia sessions that patients with depression find acceptable and tolerable. For this project, she aims to recruit 15 participants with major depressive disorder and provide them with weekly hyperthermia sessions. Study participants will complete a self-assessment to measure depressive symptoms and additional evaluations will be administered by clinicians. The study team will collect biomarkers to assess biological change at each session, ideally including markers of inflammation, stress, and cardiometabolic health.


The overarching goal of this work is to develop mind-body interventions that empower individuals to improve their health and wellbeing without the use of drugs.




The AOKI FOUNDATION has a primary goal of supporting organizations in the brain science and research areas with a specific focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation. Our vision is to one day see a world where degenerative brain diseases do not exist and science and technology play a direct role in extending the healthy lives of ourselves and our loved ones. The Foundation also supports humanitarian causes dear and near to Steve Aoki such as disaster relief, developmental disabilities, and animal-rights.