Lealani Mae (Leah) Acosta, MD, MPH

Associate Professor

Dr. Lealani Mae (Leah) Acosta is an Associate Professor of Neurology and a board-certified neurologist specializing in neurodegenerative memory disorders. Currently she serves as co-editor of the Humanities section of the journal Neurology. Dr. Acosta joined the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine faculty in 2013. She completed graduate studies, obtaining a master's in public health at Vanderbilt, with her research focused on error frequency and quality in a task of semantic fluency in patients with mild cognitive impairment. 

She attended The George Washington University, graduating summa cum laude in psychology. She completed graduate studies in psychology, philosophy, and physiology at Oxford University in Oxford, UK. On returning to the United States, she finished both her medical education and residency training in Neurology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. She completed fellowship in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Heilman, focusing on creativity. Her interest in this topic stems in part from her own hobbies of poetry, drawing, and calligraphy. Her range of publications reflects these varied interests, including peer-reviewed research articles and creative writing, primarily poetry.

Research Information

Dr. Acosta is the principal investigator for Alector Frontotemporal Dementia clinical trial in patients with the progranulin gene mutation and other Alzheimer's disease clinical trial research. As a study physician for Vanderbilt Memory & Alzheimer’s Center, Dr. Acosta performed clinical evaluations, lumbar punctures for cerebrospinal fluid acquisition, and reviewed laboratory findings. She also is a sub-investigator or study physician for other research projects in Alzheimer's disease and other clinical trials at Vanderbilt, such as the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, the MIND (Memory Improvement through Nicotine Dosing) Study, and the Bringing to Light the Risk Factors and Incidence of Neuropsychological Dysfunction in ICU Survivors (BRAIN-2). As a Clinician Educator working with medical students, she has served as a Master Clinical Teacher, working one-on-one supervising histories and physicals, and a Portfolio Coach, and currently serves as College Mentor within the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She has published research on medical education. Dr. Acosta has been instrumental in protocol implementation for evaluation of normal pressure hydrocephalus, which won the prestigious Vanderbilt University Medical Center Elevate Team Credo Award in 2023, and the lumbar puncture clinic for the neurology residents.