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Thursday, May 12, 2022

12:00 PM | LECTURE
Caspary Auditorium
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue at East 66th Street
New York, NY 10065



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

President and Carson Family Professor
The Rockefeller University


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

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

Scientists and philosophers have long sought to understand the elusive nature of memory. How can a vivid mental picture of a person long gone, or a complex skill such as playing a musical instrument, reside within groups of neurons that exchange cryptic signals and impulses? Why does the efficiency of memory differ from one individual to another and how does it change over a lifespan?

To tackle these mysteries, neuroscientist Priya Rajasethupathy develops and applies sophisticated technologies to explore the genes, cells, and neural circuits that orchestrate the dynamics of memory. In recent years, her discoveries have challenged conventional notions of how memories are stored and retrieved. Research by Dr. Rajasethupathy and colleagues has shown, for example, how memory function involves parts of the brain that had not previously been thought to play a role.

Many of us take memory for granted until we see how disruptions associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, or drug addiction profoundly diminish our quality of life, or even threaten survival. By revealing the mechanisms that underlie this essential cognitive process, work by Dr. Rajasethupathy is helping to elucidate how memory is compromised by neurodegeneration or other impairments. Recently, she has also begun to search for therapeutics that can modulate the brain’s memory systems when improvement is needed.

Dr. Rajasethupathy joined the Rockefeller faculty in 2017 as the Jonathan M. Nelson Family Assistant Professor. She had previously conducted postdoctoral research at Stanford with Dr. Karl Deisseroth, after earning M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Columbia, where she worked with Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. Dr. Rajasethupathy is the recipient of numerous honors, including a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship, among many others.