Plenary Speakers

Mellon Lecture
Our Habitual Lives: How the Brain Makes and Breaks Habits
11:00 a.m., Friday, 8 October

Ann M. Graybiel, PhD
Walter A. Rosenblith Professor
of Neuroscience
Investigator, McGovern Institute
for Brain Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Ann M. Graybiel, PhD, has revolutionized our understanding of the functional anatomy and physiology of the brain. She was the first to demonstrate a systematic functional architecture in the striatum, part of the brain’s learning and memory machinery and the largest structure in the forebrain region known as the basal ganglia. She demonstrated a mechanism of directed neurochemical control of complex brain circuits related to habit learning and repetitive behaviors. Graybiel’s work helps to explain how the forebrain’s activity states are controlled and modulated during motor activity, procedural learning, and cognition; how the brain’s habit system functions; and how humans switch from conscious activity to nearly non-conscious behavior. Her research has major clinical relevance for disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, disorders ranging from neuropsychiatric to the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, and for addictive behaviors. Graybiel did her undergraduate work at Harvard University and received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she remains today. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. In 2001, Graybiel was awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientific honor. She has received the James Rhyne Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award (MIT’s highest honor for faculty members), Robert S. Dow Neuroscience Award, Prix Plasticité Neuronale IPSEN, and Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science.