Michelle Farrell, PhD
I am a cognitive neuroscientist in my second year of postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) with a keen interest in elucidating the earliest stages of the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology. I began my training with a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, with a double major in molecular/cell biology and integrative biology. After college, I worked as a research assistant at the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center, under the mentorship of Dr. Joy Taylor. I was involved with two studies during this time, one a healthy aging study examining age-related changes in expertise in pilots, and the second a nationwide, multi-site neuroimaging study of Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. My experience working in the intersection of the healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease fields led me to undertake a PhD under the mentorship of cognitive aging expert Dr. Denise Park at the University of Texas at Dallas. My graduate work focused on the relationship between amyloid pathology and cognitive decline in cognitively normal adults across the lifespan (aged 30-90 years) from the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study (DLBS). While previous research from the DLBS and other samples had demonstrated that high levels of amyloid were associated with poorer cognition in older adults, I became interested in whether lower levels of amyloid that begin appearing about 2 decades prior to dementia onset might also have subtle consequences for brain and behavior, and provide a window into the study of the earliest stages of AD. After completing my PhD in cognitive neuroscience in December 2017, I had the opportunity and privilege to continue this line of research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, under the mentorship of leaders in the field Dr. Reisa Sperling and Dr. Keith Johnson.