Carla J. Shatz

Stanford University

Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member (elected 1995)


Carla J. Shatz is Sapp Family Provostial Professor of Biology and Neurobiology and the David Starr Jordan Director of Bio-X, Stanford University’s pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences program. She received her B.A. in Chemistry from Radcliffe College in 1969, an M.Phil. (Physiology; 1971) from University College London as a Marshall Scholar, and a Ph.D. (Neurobiology; 1976) from Harvard Medical School. Shatz joined the faculty at Stanford in 1978, then moved to University of California at Berkeley in 1992, and to Harvard Medical School in 2000 as the first woman Chair of the Department of Neurobiology. She returned to Stanford in 2007 to direct Bio-X. Dr. Shatz is a neuroscientist who has devoted her career to understanding the dynamic interplay between genes and environment that shapes brain circuits - the very essence of our being. Shatz has earned many honors and awards, including election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Royal Society of London. She received the Gruber Neuroscience Prize in 2015. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Champalimaud Vision Prize, and the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience for the discovery of mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain circuits. Most recently (2018) she received the Harvey Prize in Science and Technology from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

Research Interests

Dr. Shatz's research is devoted to elucidating how early developing brain circuits are transformed into adult connections during developmental critical periods. She showed that even before birth, the brain spontaneously generates waves of neural activity required for synapse pruning and the formation of adult circuits. She discovered the involvement of MHC Class I proteins in synapse pruning and plasticity, revealing the existence of a common molecular language that regulates synapse stability and pruning in that healthy brain and is shared by both neurons and immune cells. Her discoveries have illuminated how neural-immune interactions contribute both to development and disease, with implications for improving brain plasticity and memory and for treating neurological disorders from Schizophrenia to Alzheimer's disease.

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