Our Fresco Institute Team

Leadership

Alessandro Di Rocco, MD
Executive Director
Dr. Di Rocco is executive director of the Fresco Institute, director of the Division of Movement Disorders, and Founders Professor of Neurology at NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Di Rocco's main academic interest is in developing more effective pharmacological interventions and novel treatments for Parkinson’s disease and related disorders to improve survival and quality of life. He is especially interested in understanding the reorganization of brain circuitry and plasticity in Parkinson's disease.

Richard W. Tsien, DPhil
Scientific Director
Dr. Tsien is the inaugural director of the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU School of Medicine, the Druckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience, professor of Neural Science at NYU, and emeritus faculty at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Tsien is a world-renowned neuroscientist, a member of the Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences, and an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow. As scientific director of the Fresco Institute, Dr. Tsien’s involvement represents a critical link between clinical care for those with Parkinson’s and movement disorders and the basic neuroscience underlying these conditions.

Amy C. Lemen, MA, LCSW, C-ASWCM
Program Director
Ms. Lemen oversees all aspects of the Fresco Institute’s programs and services. She is the Managing Director of the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative and oversees the Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s Wellness Program-NYC. She is the co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Home Visit Program for Parkinson’s and the founder of the Fresco Institute’s master of social work training program. She is a psychotherapist specializing in helping individuals, care partners, and families with the emotional adaptation of living with Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders and other neurodegenerative illness. She is adjunct assistant professor, NYU Silver School of Social Work and adjunct instructor, NYU School of Medicine. She received her bachelor of arts from NYU and her master of social work from the NYU Silver School of Social Work. She received the NYU Langone Individual Excellence Award in 2012 and the Emerging Social Work Leader Award from the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers in 2015.

Rodica Dragici
Administrator
Ms. Draghici is the Division Administrator of the Fresco Institute. Mrs. Draghici’s experience, organizational skills, and dedication to the team are essential components in accomplishing The Fresco Institute’s mission of excellence. She graduated from Polytechnic University of Bucharest with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science Engineering. She has been with The Fresco Institute since it was founded as the NYU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center in 2007. She is a strong patient advocate and received the NYU Langone Employee Excellence Award in 2009.

The Team

Shashank Agarwal, MD
Assistant Research Scientist
Dr. Agarwal is a member of the research team at the Fresco Institute and is involved with conducting industry sponsored and investigator initiated clinical trials. He is trained and certified in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) used for both research and as part of the Fresco Institute’s clinical TMS program treating patients with major depressive disorder and Parkinson’s disease. His research interests include exploring new diagnostic and therapeutic neurological applications of TMS. Dr. Agarwal attended Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal, India. He completed a research fellowship at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at NYU Langone Medical Center before joining The Fresco Institute.

Franziska Battenberg
Program Coordinator
Ms. Battenberg is responsible for the development and coordination of assigned programs at the Fresco Institute. She is the Italian Clinical Fellowship Program Coordinator, coordinates international projects with the Fresco Institute’s Network of Excellence in Italy, assists in financial reporting and grants management, and was instrumental in the planning, development and coordination of the Fresco Institute’s clinical Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation program. Ms. Battenberg holds a Master degree in International Business Development from ESB Business School, Reutlingen.

Milton C. Biagioni
Assistant Professor, Research
Dr. Biagioni is the Associate Director of the Neurostimulation Lab at the Fresco Institute and full-time research faculty. The main focus of his current research is biomarkers investigation in motor learning, motor control and Parkinson’s disease with non-invasive brain stimulation, as well as clinical research focused in developing innovative therapeutic interventions with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to alleviate cognitive and motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease and related disorders. Dr. Biagioni graduated from the National University of Rosario (Argentina) and completed his residency in Buenos Aires in 2009.

Tara M. Biller, MSN, FNP-BC
Nurse Practitioner
Ms. Biller is a family nurse practitioner at the Fresco Institute. She is dedicated to providing individualized medical care and management for patients with Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Her interests include new and emerging pharmacotherapies. Ms. Biller received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from The George Washington University, with a concentration in global public health and a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing from Columbia University.

Alberto Cucca, MD
Fresco Clinical Research Fellow

Dr. Cucca is the first fellow of the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Clinical Fellowship for Italian Neurologists and Related Specialists. Born in Venice, Italy, Dr. Cucca graduated cum laude from the Medical School of the University of Trieste, Italy in 2010. In 2015, Dr. Cucca completed a visiting fellowship in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at the City College of New York. He graduated cum laude from his Neurology Residency at the University of Udine-Trieste in June 2016. Dr. Cucca’s principal research interests include: discovering potential biomarkers for the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's, studying the metabolic and nutritional abnormalities associated to the more advanced stages of Parkinson’s, and applying the technology of TMS to the treatment of the most disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as balance impariment and gait dysfunction. 

Geraldine Dacpano, MPH
Assistant Research Scientist

Ms. Dacpano manages the regulatory oversight and execution of all clinical trials conducted at The Fresco Institute. She has extensive experience in biopharmaceutical clinical research in both industry and academic settings focusing on project management, quality assurance, and clinical site operations. Ms. Dacpano has worked on over 100 federally- and industry-funded clinical research studies and has contributed to several publications predominantly within the area of Central Nervous System disease and disorders. She received her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from New York University and master of public health from Hunter College.

Arash Fazl, MD, PhD
Movement Disorders Fellow

Dr. Fazl is the 2015 Lily Safra Fellow at the Fresco Institute. Dr. Fazl’s academic interests are in understanding the underlying mechanisms of decision-making and movement planning as well as in brain modulation. He is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to the care of patients and their loved ones. Dr. Fazl received his PhD in neuroscience from Boston University and MD from Tehran University of Medical Science in Tehran, Iran. He completed his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Jori Fleisher, MD
Movement Disorders Specialist
Dr. Fleisher is a movement disorders neurologist at the Fresco Institute. Dr. Fleisher completed her undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis and received her medical degree from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, where she also completed her internship. She pursued her residency in Neurology as well as specialized training in Global Health Equities at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a two-year fellowship in Movement Disorders and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Epidemiology, both at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research has focused on exploring the patient- and caregiver-centered factors that affect health behavior in Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Fleisher’s academic interests include developing innovative, interdisciplinary models of care for patients with Parkinson's, new strategies to improve medication adherence, and improving provider-patient communication. Dr. Fleisher joined the faculty of NYU in 2014, where she is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Population Health. She proudly serves as the Medical Director and Principal Investigator of the Interdisciplinary Home Visit Program at the Fresco Institute. She has been recognized as a patient advocate and Emerging Leader by the American Academy of Neurology.

Rebecca M. Gilbert, MD, PhD
Dr. Gilbert is a movement disorders specialist at the Fresco Institute. She also runs the Movement Disorders Clinic at Bellevue Hospital Center, the flagship public hospital of New York City’s Health and Hospital Corporation. Dr. Gilbert established and now directs the Movement Disorders Fellowship at NYU Langone Medical Center. She teaches and serves as faculty mentor for both medical students and Neurology Residents and is involved in a number of collaborative research projects at the Fresco Institute. Dr. Gilbert received her MD from Weill Medical College of Cornell University and her PhD in Cell Biology and Genetics at the Sloan Kettering Institute. She completed a Neurology Residency and Movement Disorders Fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center.

Annette C. Gray, PhD
Dr. Gray is the Executive Director of the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone and the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology. She received her PhD from Brown University in Neuroscience, studying the function of voltage-gated calcium channels. She oversees all administrative, financial, programmatic, and strategic aspects of the Neuroscience Institute in close partnership with Dr. Tsien. She is the primary administrative contact for basic research within the Fresco Institute and helps create a strong bridge connecting our basic and clinical research efforts.

Mia Ko, DO
Dr. Ko is the Movement Disorders Fellow at the Fresco Institute. She sees patients in the clinic at the Institute, as well as at the Movement Disorders Clinic of Bellevue Hospital Center. Dr. Ko also sees patients at home through the Edmond J. Safra Interdisciplinary Home Visit Program for Parkinson’s, and is training at NYU Langone’s Center for Neuromodulation in the assessment of candidates for deep brain stimulation (DBS) for the treatment of movement disorders as well as the post-operative and long-term programming of the stimulators. Dr. Ko graduated from TOURO Osteopathic Medicine in 2012, and finished her Neurology residency at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey in 2016. Her clinical interests include diagnosing and treating various movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease, hyperkinetic movement disorders, and related neurodegenerative disorders, and performing Botulinum toxin injections and assessments for DBS.

Marta Maltese, PhD
Dr. Maltese received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Rome Tor Vergata in 2016, where she worked on basal ganglia neurophysiology in animals model of movements disorders, including dystonia, Parkinson’s disease and monogenic parkinsonism. She is currently working with Dr. Nicolas Tritsch to study the neural circuits affects of dopamine.

Maria Mancini, PhD
Dr. Mancini earned her PhD in Health Sciences from the University of Molise in Campobasso, then completed her first postdoc at the IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation working on corticostriatal synaptic plasticity in Parkinson’s disease.  She came to NYU from the Foundation IRCCS Neurological Institute Carlo Besta, where she was a visiting scholar. She is currently working with Dr. Margaret Rice to study the modulation of dopamine release.

Talia Meisel
Research Data Associate

Ms. Meisel works closely with the Interdisciplinary Home Visit Program for Parkinson’s team, as well as assists with clinical research projects studying patient and family-centered factors affecting health behavior, transitions of care, and novel models of care in neurodegenerative disease. In 2013, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Tulane University. Ms. Meisel completed a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program at NYU in the Spring of 2016.

Alon Mogilner, MD, PhD
Dr. Mogilner is an associate professor of neurosurgery at NYU School of Medicine, and the director of the Center for Neuromodulation at NYU Langone Medical Center. He received his M.D. degree as well as a PhD in physiology and neuroscience at NYU School of Medicine, where his research focused on functional imaging of the brain and neuronal plasticity. His clinical interests include the use of both neuromodulation as well as lesioning techniques to treat a variety of neurological disorders including movement disorders, chronic pain/headache, and psychiatric disorders. The NYU Center for Neuromodulation is currently participating in multiple clinical trials studying neuromodulation therapy to treat Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, migraine headache, and chronic spinal pain. Dr. Mogilner is a past president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Joint Section on Pain, as well as a member of the executive board of the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS). He is a former member of the executive board of the ASSFN, as well as the founding webmaster of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) website.

Melissa J. Nirenberg, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurology, NYU School of Medicine
Associate Director, NYU Neurology Residency Program

Dr. Nirenberg is a neurologist with extensive experience with clinical management of Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, including specific expertise in the therapeutic use of botulinum toxin injections. In addition to patient care, Dr. Nirenberg is involved in clinical research, with a specific interest in the non-motor manifestations of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Nirenberg received her undergraduate degree from Yale University, graduating magna cum laude with distinction in English. She received her MD and PhD degrees from Weill Cornell Medical College, where she was honored for the highest achievement in the graduating class in both Medicine and Pediatrics, and for excellence in research. After medical school, Dr. Nirenberg completed a neurology residency at the University of California, San Francisco, followed by a three-year movement disorders fellowship at Columbia University. From 2005-2012, Dr. Nirenberg was on the faculty at Weill Cornell, where she was an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Associate Director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Institute, and Associate Director of the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program. Dr. Nirenberg joined the faculty of the NYU School of Medicine in 2012, where she is currently an Associate Professor of Neurology and Associate Director of the Neurology Residency Program.

Sarah E. Oyler, BSN, RN
Research and Clinical Nurse

Ms. Oyler is a nurse at the Fresco Institute and works with patients and families in the clinic and in the home. She serves as a Research Nurse for the Interdisciplinary Home Visit Program for Parkinson’s, and is interested in helping patients and families to improve their quality of life. Ms. Oyler received her undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon in 2010 and completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from NYU in 2014.

Michael H. Pourfar, MD
Dr. Michael Pourfar is the co-director of the Center for Neuromodulation at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a movement disorder neurologist specializing in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, Tourette’s syndrome and dystonia and is actively involved in clinical research and surgical trials. He has published numerous articles and chapters pertaining to deep brain stimulation and movement disorders and has a particular interest in the use of stimulation for emerging indications such as Tourette’s as well as in technical advances in the application of DBS for current indications.

Deanna Rayment
Program Coordinator

Ms. Rayment serves as a key member of the Fresco Institute’s social work, support, and wellness team and is an integral liaison between staff, programs and patients. She is involved in the planning, development and implementation of programs including the Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s Wellness Program-NYC and the Bellevue Hospital Parkinson’s Fitness & Wellness Program at the Bellevue Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Clinic. Deanna received her bachelor of arts from Montclair State University and her Master of Social Work from the NYU Silver School of Social Work in 2016.

Giulietta Maria Riboldi, MD
Dr. Riboldi is a clinical research fellow of the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Clinical Fellowship for Italian Neurologists and Related Specialists. Born in Milan, she graduated from the Medical School of the University of Milan, where she also completed her Residency in Neurology, in July 2016. Dr. Riboldi spent her last year of Residency as a research fellow in Dr. Przedborski's laboratory at the Motor Neuron Center at Columbia University, New York, where she was trained on molecular and cellular biology of neurodegenerative diseases, with a specific focus on motor neuron disorders. She also joined the Movement Disorders Clinic at Columbia University as an observer. The main interests of Dr. Riboldi’s research are the genetic basis of Movement Disorders and dissection of molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases in order to identify innovative therapeutic approaches.

Margaret E. Rice, PhD
Dr. Rice is a Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at New York University School of Medicine. Her NIH-funded laboratory studies factors that regulate the release of dopamine, a key transmitter in motor and reward pathways in the brain. Current research topics include the mechanism of dopamine release from substantia nigra dopamine neurons, which degenerate in Parkinson's disease, as well as modulation of axonal dopamine release in the striatum by exercise and BDNF, by hydrogen peroxide, and by diet and insulin. Dr. Rice is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, and President of the International Society for Monitoring Molecules in Neuroscience (2014-2016).

Anca C. Sadeanu
Senior Faculty Group Practice Assistant

Mrs. Sadeanu is the Senior Faculty Group Practice (FGP) Assistant for the Fresco Institute. Her main responsibilities include all aspects of authorizations, FGP operations, and facilitating physicians and patients administrative needs. Mrs. Sadeanu graduated from the University of Bucharest with a bachelor of science in Chemistry. She has worked in the health care field since 2006.

Nicolas Tritsch, PhD
Dr. Tritsch is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU where he studies the functional organization of neural circuits that orchestrate voluntary motor actions under physiological and pathological conditions. He obtained his BS in immunology and MS in neuroscience from McGill University, Canada, before earning his PhD in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University under the mentorship of Dr. Dwight Bergles. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Bernardo Sabatini at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Tritsch is the recipient of several awards, including a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award and a Society for Neuroscience Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award.