Dr. (Maria) Natasha Rajah, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology, Toronto Metropolitan University; Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Sex, Gender, and Diversity in Brain Health, Memory and Aging; CIHR Sex & Gender Research Chair in Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction; IAB Member, CIHR Inst. of Aging
I am a Full Professor in the Department of Psychology, Toronto Metropolitan. 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.
Stamatoula Pasvanis, M.Sc.; Research Coordinator
I am the study coordinator for our projects. My background is in Cellular and Molecular Biology and my job involves study participant 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
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.
Gabriela Vélez Largo, M.Sc.; Research Coordinator
I am the Toronto-based research coordinator at the Rajah Lab. I completed my B.Sc. in Biomedical Science at the University of Montreal (2019) and my M.Sc. in the Integrated Program in Neurosciences at McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Rajah (2023). During my master’s, I investigated individual differences in the effect of lapses of attention during encoding on subsequent episodic memory performance and underlying brain activity. Currently, I help with participant recruitment, experimental testing, data analysis, and offering research support to fellow members of the lab.
Dr. Annalise LaPlume, Postdoctoral Researcher, Rajah Lab, McGill University
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 Ph.D. 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).
Dr. Rikki Lissaman, Postdoctoral Researcher, Rajah Lab, McGill University
I joined the Rajah Lab, McGill University in January 2022, where I will be supervised by Dr. Natasha Rajah. I completed my BSc in Psychology at the University of Birmingham, England (2016) and my MSc in Brain Imaging (Neuropsychology) at the University of Nottingham, England (2017). During this time, I was awarded a Biomedical Vacation Scholarship by the Wellcome Trust to support a placement at the University of Sheffield, England, and also worked as a Research Assistant in Birmingham. I then undertook a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience at Cardiff University, Wales (2021), where I investigated the impact of APOE genotype and age on large-scale neurocognitive networks. I then worked as a Research Associate in Cardiff, supporting data collection and analysis for a large-scale multi-modal imaging project.
My research interests include episodic memory and spatial cognition, aging, risk and resilience to cognitive decline, and neurodegeneration. I am particularly interested in the role of network neuroscience approaches in this context, which I will use as part of my role in the Rajah Lab. More specifically, I will apply novel multivariate network analyses to structural and diffusion MRI data in order to examine how age, gender/sex, menopause, and APOE individually and interactively affect the brain and cognition.
Julia Kearley, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Program in Experimental Psychology, McGill University
I am a Ph.D. student in the Experimental Psychology program, under the supervision of Dr. Natasha Rajah. I completed my master’s in Psychology at Iona College (New York), under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Wong-Goodrich. My thesis examined the effects of hormonal contraceptives and menstrual cycle on spatial memory performance. After completing my master’s, I was a lab manager in the Cognitive Aging and Memory (CAM) Lab at Stony Brook University (Long Island, NY), directed by Dr. Lauren Richmond. While working in The CAM Lab, I managed multiple projects investigating memory changes associated with healthy aging. For my Ph.D., I am interested in investigating the effects of menopause (characterised by declining levels of E2) and inflammation on brain structure and function. When I’m not in the lab, you can find me enjoying overpriced coffee in the city, thrifting and exploring new running trails.
Hallie Liu, M.A. Candidate, Psychological Science, Toronto Metropolitan University
After finishing my BA in Psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2021, I gained experience as a research coordinator at the University of Hong Kong. During my undergrad, I conducted research projects in Dr. Daniela Palombo’s lab, focusing on episodic memory and neuroimaging. I am interested in exploring different functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis methods to study episodic memory. For my master’s project, I am looking at the sex differences in the neural correlates of spatial memory using fMRI. In my free time, I love to watch (and talk about) movies.
Sara Ahmed, M.A. Candidate, Clinical Psychology, Toronto Metropolitan University
I am an M.A. student in the Clinical Psychology program under the supervision of Dr. Natasha Rajah and work in collaboration with Dr. Rosanna Olsen. I received a B.A. in Honours Psychology Co-op with a Research-Intensive Specialization and minor in Addictions, Mental Health, & Policy from the University of Waterloo in 2023. During my undergrad, I worked with Dr. Myra Fernandes to explore how emojis are cognitively represented using a dual-task paradigm. I also worked with Dr. Mike Dixon to investigate how Instagram may be used to maladaptively cope with depression for my honours thesis. Currently, my research interests are around sexual dimorphism in the brain using neuroimaging, with a particular interest in women’s brain health. For my master’s project, I will be investigating how biological sex, menopause status, and age impact hippocampal subfield volumes and spatial context memory. Outside the lab, I enjoy playing video games like Stardew Valley, singing, and playing with my senior cat.
Undergraduate Students and Research Volunteers
Maria del Pilar Fajardo
Previous Post-docs and Graduate Students
Jamie Snytte, M.Sc.: M.Sc. Trainee in IPN (); Current position – Ph.D. Candidate with Dr. Signy Sheldon, McGill University
Sophia Loparco, M.Sc.: M.Sc. Trainee in IPN (); Current position –
Arielle Crestol, M.Sc.: M.Sc. Trainee in IPN (Sept. 2018 – Dec. 2021); Current position –
Abdel Elshiekh, Ph.D.; Ph.D. Trainee in IPN (Sept. 2017-May 2022); Current position – Consultant
Sivaniya Subramaniapillai, Ph.D.; Ph.D. Trainee with Department of Psychology (Sept. 2017–2021); Current position – Postdoctoral Researcher with Dr. Ann-Marie de Lange, FemiLab, Université de Lausanne
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); Postdoctoral Research with Dr. D. L. Schacter (Harvard) and Dr. C. L. Grady (U. of Toronto); Current position – Data Scientist at Scotiabank
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 position – 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
Dhanishta Ambwani, Mengdi Zhu, Meaghan Smith, Lucie Kearns, Bronwen Lathrop, Kathryn Luis, 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