Dr. Maria Natasha Rajah, PhD
Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, McGill University
Director, Brain Imaging Centre, Douglas Hospital Research Centre
I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I obtained my B.Sc. Honors (specializing in Psychology) and did my graduate training at the University of Toronto under the mentor-ship of Dr. A. R. McIntosh. I graduated with my Ph.D. from U. of Toronto in 2003. I then became postdoctoral researcher at U.C. Berkeley under the mentor-ship of Dr. M. T. D'Esposito. In 2005 I joined the Douglas Institute Research Centre as Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry. In 2009 I became Associate Professor at McGill University and in 2011 I became the Director of the Brain Imaging Centre at the Douglas Institute Research Centre. My program of research uses complimentary image analysis tools (i.e. univariate, multivariate, variability and connectivity analysis) to understand how adults encode and retrieve episodic memories from a neural network perspective, and how healthy aging and risk-factors for Alzheimer's Disease affect brain structure, function and episodic memory. In addition, I am interested in examining the overlap in neural networks supporting perception, memory, and other cognitive processes and differences in structure-function associations across the adult lifespan.
Dr. Anne Almey, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Gillian Einstien Lab, U. of Toronto & Rajah Lab, McGill University
The focus of my research is the role of estrogens in a variety of cognitive process and diseases and disorders. I have addressed this in preclinical rodent models and in humans, examining the effects of estrogens on cognition and the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie these effects. My interest in sex differences in cognition and behavior began early in my career during my undergraduate thesis, which examined sex differences in social learning and aggression and the role of estrogens in this sex difference. My graduate research continued in a similar vein, examining the contribution of estrogens to numerous dopamine-dependent cognitive processes, including selective attention, reversal learning, and perseveration. I also examined the ultrastructural distribution of estrogen receptors in dopaminergic nuclei to gain a better understanding of how estrogens affect these cognitive processes. Following my graduate research, I transitioned to research in humans. At present I hold the Posluns Postoctoral Fellowship in Women’s Brain Health and Aging and am co-supervised by Dr Gillian Einstein at the University of Toronto and Dr Natasha Rajah at McGill University. My current project examines the cognitive and neurobiological effects of early ovarian hormone deprivation in women with BRCA mutations. I hope that this work illuminates the role of estrogens in female cognition, and how loss of estrogens may contribute to age related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Stamatoula Pasvanis, M.Sc.
Study Coordinator, Rajah Lab
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.
I am the Image Analyst for the Douglas BIC and for Dr. Rajah's lab. My background is in Computer Science and research focus in the lab is to create pipelines to run different types of MRI data analyses. I’m currently working on creating a functional connectivity toolbox for task-fMRI data to be used with PLS. I have also written pipelines to pre-process task fMRI data on humans using SPM and Matlab as well as animal fMRI data using FSL and ANTs.
Ph.D. Candidate, Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University
What mediates the bias in what information individuals remember? How do networks in the brain interact to explain differences in what individuals subjectively experience and subsequently recollect? During my PhD in Dr. Natasha Rajah’s lab, I have addressed these questions using a lifespan approach to investigate differences in episodic memory function from young adulthood to midlife into older adulthood. In my work, I like to use data-driven multivariate statistical techniques to describe patterns of brain activity and/or connectivity that help explain or predict individual differences in episodic memory performance. As a Healthy Brains Healthy Lives (HBHL) doctoral research fellow, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), I have examined differential patterns of whole-brain network connectivity supporting memory for the contextual details of events in young, middle-aged, and older adults, with the aim of understanding how functional differences across the adult lifespan contribute to declines in memory performance with age.
Ph.D. Candidate, Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University
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?
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Program in Pyschology, McGill University
I started my graduate studies under the supervision of Drs. Natasha Rajah and Debra Titone. For my MSc Thesis I investigated whether multilingualism over the lifespan impacts women and men in a way that differentially buffers against age-related declines in executive control. The unique sex effects observed in the completion of this MSc project inspired me to pursue sex differences in episodic memory in healthy aging for my PhD work under the primary supervision of Dr. Rajah. I am currently conducting a multivariate Partial Least Squares fMRI analysis to study brain-behaviour correlations in episodic memory on a healthy adult lifespan sample. Through my research training, I am interested in exploring sex differences in brain aging and memory through the use of different methodological (i.e., relationship between structure, function, and behaviour) and statistical approaches.
Department of Psychology, McGill University
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 research project in the lab of Dr. Natasha Rajah, I am currently examining the independent functional nature of the anterior and posterior segments of the hippocampus in relation to source memory ability in young adults. My main interest lies in examining how changes in volume of medial temporal lobe structures relate to changes in cognitive function across the lifespan. Throughout my undergraduate degree in Psychology at McGill University, I have worked in the lab of Dr. J. Bruno Debruille, using EEG to examine preconscious processing and volunteered in the lab of Dr. Vincent Gracco to examine language processing with MEG. I will be working in Dr. Rajah’s lab for my M.Sc. at McGill from Fall 2018 until Winter 2020. My goal is to conduct research which leads to beneficial and practical outcomes for an aging population, as well as enhances our overall understanding of the way that the brain makes the mind.
Maria del Pilar Fajardo
Previous Post-docs and Graduate Students
Lyssa Manning, M.Sc.
Elsa Haoyou Yu, M.Sc.
Karina Borja Jimenez, M.Sc.
Dave Crane, M. Sc.
Renee Gordon, Ph.D.
David Maillet, Ph.D.
Diana Mee-chong Kwon, M.Sc.
Alexander Swierkot, M.Sc.
Lindsay Wallace, M. Sc.
Previous Undergraduate Trainees
Lesley Yu Wue