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Memory: New Insights Into the Dynamic Brain

Thursday, October 26, 2017

6:00 P.M. Program | 7:00 P.M. Reception

The Rockefeller University
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall
1230 York Avenue at East 66th Street


Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.



Priya Rajasethupathy, M.D., Ph.D.

Jonathan M. Nelson Family Assistant Professor
Laboratory of Neural Dynamics and Cognition

Anyone who has ever forgotten a password knows that memory can fail us. It can fail in the insignificant details of the day-to-day, or more catastrophically—as when Alzheimer’s patients do not recognize their own children. Memory can also betray us when it is too persistent, when our minds run a deep groove to a particular event or association, as may occur in post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and addiction.

Recent discoveries about the basic mechanisms of how our brains acquire, encode, consolidate, recall, and reshape memories are helping to explain what happens when these processes go awry. They are also illuminating paths of creativity and resourcefulness.

Priya Rajasethupathy, M.D., Ph.D., who joined the Rockefeller faculty in March 2017 as the Jonathan M. Nelson Family Assistant Professor in the Laboratory of Neural Dynamics and Cognition, is exploring the genetic and circuit-level mechanisms that underlie memory. After receiving her B.A. in biological sciences at Cornell University, she completed her graduate research at Columbia University in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, where her interest in the neural basis of information storage began. At Stanford University, Dr. Rajasethupathy used pioneering techniques to study the brain circuitry of memory retrieval. She identified neurons that connect the hippocampus—traditionally considered to be the site of memory—to other regions responsible for more complex thought.

In this presentation for Rockefeller University benefactors and friends, Dr. Rajasethupathy will discuss the dynamic nature of the brain. How does the brain store and retrieve a memory? How can that process become disrupted or corrupted? How does cognitive flexibility, the ability of the brain to innovate and adapt, contribute to how we engage the world?

Dr. Rajsethupathy has received many honors for her work, including a 2015 National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award, and was named a 2015 Top 10 early-career scientist award by Science News.