Principal Investigator

Dr. (Maria) Natasha Rajah, PhD
Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, McGill University; CIHR Sex and Gender Chair in Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction; IAB Member, CIHR; Chair, EDI Committee, Douglas Hospital Research Centre maria.rajah@mcgill.ca

I am a Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, McGill University and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre. I received my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Toronto, St. George Campus in 2003 and did my post-doctoral training at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley. In 2005, I joined the Douglas Research Centre and the Department of Psychiatry, McGill University.  I conduct research in the cognitive neurosciences of memory, aging and dementia prevention. My lab uses behavioral, neuropsychological, genetic, physiological, and brain imaging (MRI) methods to investigate how the human brain learns and remembers past events in rich detail (episodic memory); and how aging, biological sex, gender, and reserve factors impact cognition and brain network dynamics in adults with and without risk factors for late-onset sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease. 

I am a member Consortium for Neurodegeneration and Aging (CCNA; “Cognitive intervention, reserve and brain plasticity” Team 10), Consortium Québécois for early identification of Alzheimer’s disease (CIMA-Q; “Neuroimaging Working Group and Cognitive Working Group”), McGill Centre for Studies in Aging, and the PREVENT-AD Research Group at McGill University. I am Editor-in-Chief at Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, Senior Editor at Brain Research and Associate Editor at Psychological Science.

Team Members

Research Staff

 

Stamatoula Pasvanis, M.Sc.; Research Coordinator, Rajah Lab stamatoula.pasvanis(at)douglas.mcgill.ca

I am the study coordinator for our projects. My background is in Cellular and Molecular Biology and my job involves subject recruitment, testing, analysis and providing research support to the lab members. I also conduct DNA extraction on blood sample and genotyping of several genes involved in memory. I’m currently working on our study focusing in determining the impact of sex, menopausal status and +APOE4 risk for Alzheimer’s Disease on the neural correlates of episodic memory in healthy middle aged adults.

 

Sricharana Rajagopal, M.Sc.; Image Analyst, Rajah Lab  
sricharana.rajagopal(at)douglas.mcgill.ca

I am the MRI Image Analyst in Dr. Rajah’s lab. My background is in Computer Science and my job involves processing fMRI images and creating pipelines to run different types of analyses on fMRI data. I work primarily in Python and Matlab.

 

 

Lina Khayyat, B.Sc., McGill University; Full-time, Research Assistant (RA), Rajah Lab. 

I help with subject recruitment, behavioral testing, and fMRI testing for ongoing studies in the lab.

 

 

 

Houman Azizi, B.Sc., McGill University, Full-time, Research Assistant (RA), Rajah Lab.

I am a Research Assistant at Dr. Rajah’s lab. My background is in Neuroscience, and I help with subject recruitment and conduct behavioral testing and fMRI testing for ongoing studies in the lab. 

 

 

 

Océane Bellon, B.Sc., McGill University; Part-time, Research Assistant (RA), Rajah Lab. 

I conduct medial temporal lobe volume segmentations for the brain health at midlife and menopause (BHAMM) study in collaboration with Ph.D. Candidate Jamie Snytte and Dr. Rajah.

 

 

Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr. Annalise LaPlume

Postdoctoral Researcher,  Rajah Lab, McGill University
annaliselaplume@gmail.com

I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Rajah lab, McGill University and co-supervised by Dr. S. Belleville at CRIUGM. I did my BSc in Psychology at the University of Nottingham, England (2011), before moving to Canada to do a Masters and PhD in Cognitive Psychology, and graduate diplomas in Quantitative Methods and Neuroscience (2019). I then completed a postdoctoral position at Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest (affiliated with the University of Toronto), funded by the Alzheimer Society of Canada (2021). Under the supervision of Drs. N. Anderson, A. Troyer, and B. Levine, I developed statistical models of episodic memory and executive functions over the adult lifespan in large-scale datasets (n>40,000), and studied how these cognitive abilities vary in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease or with risk factors for dementia (e.g., sex differences, educational attainment, lifestyle factors). In the Rajah lab, I will advance my training to study the effect of sex differences and cognitive reserve on memory-related brain connectivity in individuals at risk for dementia, under the co-supervision of Drs. N. Rajah and S.Belleville and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Consortium for the Early Identification of Alzheimer’s Disease-Quebec (CIMA-Q).

Graduate Students

Abdel Elshiekh
Ph.D. Candidate, Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University
abdel.elshiekh@mail.mcgill.ca

I am currently a PhD student at the Rajah lab working under the supervision of Dr. Maria Natasha Rajah. I completed a BSc in Biology at the University of Waterloo and a BA in Psychology at Ryerson University. My research interests lie in understanding the cognitive, and functional brain differences in healthy older adults with varying levels of cognitive ability. For instance, why do some older adults have superior memory ability comparable to that of younger individuals, while others show less intact memory ability? I specifically focus on the functional brain differences related to long-term (episodic) memory in individuals with varying levels of performance. To that end, I use neuroimaging techniques (e.g., fMRI) to examine the patterns of brain activations that differentiate older adults with different levels of cognitive performance, and relate those patterns to memory ability. Additionally, I am also interested in understanding the role that attention plays during encoding and remembering episodic details in younger and older adults. Do we remember things better if we simply pay more attention when we encode information? If so, what are the similarities and differences in brain activity patterns when we encode information under different levels of attention?

 

Alicia Duval
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology, McGill University
alicia.duval@mail.mcgill.ca

I am currently a Clinical Psychology PhD student at McGill working under the supervision of Dr. Natasha Rajah and Dr. Debra Titone. I completed a B.Sc. in Neuroscience and Mental Health and a B.A. in Psychology at Carleton University. My interest in cognitive function began during my undergraduate thesis, which examined the incidental beneficial effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on cognitive function in female breast cancer survivors who received chemotherapy as treatment. More specifically, I focused on whether this intervention could enhance subjective and objective retrospective and prospective memory. This experience sparked a curiosity and inspired me to study how major life events (e.g., illness, menopausal transition, etc.) could impact memory function as we age. For my PhD, I will be investigating sex differences in brain aging and exploring how menopausal transition impact episodic memory in women.

Jamie Snytte
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology, McGill University
jamie.snytte@mail.mcgill.ca

I will completemy M.Sc. at IPN with Dr. Rajah in Summer 2020 and start as a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Pyschology, Department of Psychology in Fall 2020, under the co-supervision of Drs. Natasha Rajah and Signy Sheldon. My work looks at the relationship between the volume of medial temporal lobe structures (such as the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, perirhinal cortex and parahippocampal cortex), and memory ability. For my undergraduate and M.Sc. research projects in the lab of Dr. Natasha Rajah, I examined the contributions of anterior and posterior segments of the hippocampus to source memory ability in young adults. For my Ph.D. I will extend this work into the area of aging and dementia and explore how changes in volume of medial temporal lobe structures relate to changes in cognitive and brain function. 

Arielle Crestol
M.Sc. Candidate, Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University
arielle.crestol@mail.mcgill.ca

I graduated from Concordia University with a BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience. There, I completed my honour’s thesis under Dr. Li where I evaluated the effects of walking to a rhythmic beat on gait stability in healthy older adults. During my undergraduate degree, I also volunteered for the Centre for Studies in Behavioural Neurobiology , where I assisted in experiments pertaining to neuropharmacology, neuroendocrine function, and sexual behaviour. During my MSc, I will be using functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioural measures to assess how menopausal status affects episodic memory and related brain function. My goal is to provide a better understanding of the sex differences associated with memory, aging, and the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sophia Loparco
M.Sc. Candidate, Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University
soph.loparco@gmail.com

I graduated with an Honours degree in Cognitive Science Major, Psychology Minor from McGill University in 2018 with a concentration in Computer Science and Linguistics. I completed an honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Ross Otto which used pupillometry to investigate the physiological correlates of cognitive effort expenditure during task-switching. After graduation I worked as a research assistant (RA) in the labs of Drs. Ross Otto, Madeleine Sharp and Signy Sheldon. I joined Dr. Rajah’s lab as a p/t RA in Summer 2019 and in January 2020 I enrolled as an M.Sc. student in the IPN at McGill. My Master’s project uses resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate age and menopause related variance in canonical resting-state functional brain networks. I am particularly interested in the dedifferentiation theory of neurocognitive aging and its implications for episodic memory and cognitive control.

Gabriela Vélez Largo
M.Sc. Candidate, Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University
gabriela.velezlargo@mail.mcgill.ca

I graduated from the University of Montreal with an Honours B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences specialized in neurosciences. After graduation, I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Debruille’s lab where I became enthusiastic about research involving cognition in humans and neuroimaging techniques. In Fall 2021, I joined the Rajab Lab as an M.Sc. candidate. For my Master’s project I will conduct a task fMRI study to examine age differences in the neural correlates of attention and memory.

Undergraduate Students

Lucie Russell-Kearns
4th year Undergraduate Honours Student, McGill University

I am a fourth year cognitive science student and I will be conducting an Honours Research Project under the supervision of Prof. N. Rajah and her Ph.D. student A. Duval. I will be working with T1w MRI data to test the hypothesis that age-related cortical thinning in middle-aged women will be moderated by an individual’s bilingual life experience.

 

Bronwen Lathrope
3rd year Undergraduate Honours Student, McGill University

For my Honours Research Project, I will be conducting a behavioural study testing the hypothesis that a history of  depression in women may affect later-life executive function, and that this effect may be mitigated by bilingual language experience – hypothesized to be a proxy measure of cognitive reserve.

 

Kathryn Luis
3rd year Undergraduate Honours Student, McGill University

I am conducting an undergraduate research project examining the relationship between covid-related stress levels and cognition in young and middle-aged adults.  I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Rajah.

 

Meaghan Smith
4th year Undergraduate Honours Student, McGill University

I am a fourth year cognitive science student with a double minor in computer science and social studies of medicine. I am super excited to be conducting my honours research project with the Rajah lab on the topic of brain health during midlife. In particular, my project involves examining the correlation between sleep quality and performance in various memory-related cognitive tasks in middle aged women. The goal of the project is to try and determine if decreased performance in these tasks is caused by lack of sleep or poor sleep quality.

 

Lab Alumni

Previous RAs

Rosalie Young

Sophia Loparco

Lauren Crawford

Maria del Pilar Fajardo

Claire Han

Rafael Languay

Sidney Pinto

Angela Potes

Luc Valiquette

Previous Post-docs and Graduate Students

Sivaniya Subramaniapillai, Ph.D.; Ph.D. Trainee withDepartment of Psychology (Sept. 2017-2021); Current position – Postdoctoral Researcher with Dr. Danilo Bzdok, Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, Montreal, Canada

Sheida Rabipour, Ph.D.; Previous Postdoc (Oct. 2018 – Jan. 2021); Current position – Consultant, McKinsey & Company Consultants

Anne Almey, Ph.D.; Previous Postdoc (Sept. 2018 – 2020); Current position – Lecturer, McGill University & Concordia University 

Elizabeth Ankudowich, Ph.D.; Ph.D. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2013-2018); Current position – Scientific Program Analysis, NIH

David Maillet, Ph.D.; Ph.D. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2011-2014); Current position – Data Scientist at BenchSci.

Lyssa Manning, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2015-2017); Current position – RA with Dr. R. Sperling at Harvard University

Elsa Haoyou Yu, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2015 – 2017); Current postion – Pursuing religious studies

Alexander Swierkot, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2013 – June 2016); Current Position – Medical Student at McGill University

Lindsay Wallace, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2013 – 2015); Current position – Postdoctoral Researcher at Cambridge University

Karina Borja Jimenez, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee with IPN ( Sept. 2012 – 2014); Current position – Pursuing a Ph.D. in the Netherlands

Diana Mee-chong Kwon, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee with IPN (Sept. 2012 – 2014); Current position – Scientific Writer for The Atlantic, Nature etc.

Dave Crane, M.Sc.; M.Sc. Trainee in IPN (Sept 2006 – June 2009); Current Position – Researcher, Sunnbrook Health Sciences Centre and Lecturer at U. of Toronto

Previous Undergraduate Trainees

Crystal Yang, Oceane Bellon, Ronald Chang, Adelaide Jensen, Rosalie Young, Katherine Côté-Trotter, Camille Beaudoin, Keira Hooper, Rachel Hum, Daniel Davies, Bianca Olivieri, Lesley Yu Wue, Idil Kilinc, Jackie Lam, Zoe Winterton-Perks, Michelle Kromos