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Election Year: 1990
Scientific Discipline: Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member
Patricia Goldman-Rakic explained the circuitry of the brain’s prefrontal and frontal cortices, which affect attention, cognition, emotion, and goal-directed aspects of behavior. The prefrontal cortex was thought to be too complex to navigate, but Goldman-Rakic was able to map out the highly specialized network of neurons arranged in columns. This research allowed for a better understanding of the neurological basis of higher cognitive function and of diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
Goldman-Rakic graduated from Vassar College in 1959 with an A.B. in psychology and earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California in 1963. She was the recipient of postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California, Los Angeles and New York University. From 1965 to 1979 Goldman-Rakic worked at the National Institutes of Mental Health in neuropsychology and was appointed Chief of Developmental Neurobiology. She became a professor of neuroscience at Yale University Medical School in 1979 and was named the Eugene Higgins professor of neuroscience in the neurobiology department.