Duberg Professor of Neurobiology and Neurology
Chairman, Department of Neurobiology
Director, Kavli Institute of Neuroscience
“You know, I am often considered the bad guy in this discussion of neurogenesis. People want the new cells because they think it offers new hope. And they think I am the guy who always says, ‘Read my lips – no new neurons.’ But that was never really my position. I did not object to Fernando’s birds. I only objected when he said that what he saw in canaries could be applied to human beings.” – Rakic
For much of his career, Rakic was perhaps most well-known for his adamant belief that the adult mammalian brain is incapable of generating and integrating new neurons. The far-reaching significance of a process like neurogenesis was not lost on Rakic: he immediately realized the implications of such a phenomenon in neurological problems and diseases. He opposed the claim that the adult human brain continuously generates new neurons because of a lack of evidence and a difficulty rationalizing the circuitry involved in such a process. However, he has contributed many hypotheses and discoveries to the field of neurogenesis, not the least of which being the first description of neurogenesis in the subventricular zone of the brain. He pioneered research with primate brains and has enabled generations of researchers to learn from his precise brain slicing techniques.
Rakic’s laboratory has a long-standing focus on understanding the cellular events and molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of the mammalian central nervous system. He has tackled many topics in the field, but one of his most interesting research projects focuses on the mechanisms involved in neuronal migration. Through a series of in vitro and in vivo studies, Rakic has discovered several genes specific for signaling and regulatory molecules, as well as receptors that coordinate the series of events involved in neuronal proliferation, phenotype determination, and proper neuronal migration.
1962 – Fellowship at Harvard University
1995 – Elected President of the Society for Neuroscience
2008 – Co-recipient of Kavli Prize for Neuroscience
Pasko Rakic in action
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Yale University website: http://rakiclab.med.yale.edu/
Specter, M. (2001). Rethinking the Brain. The New Yorker, July 23, 2001, 42-54
Page by Emma Laird