Images of mind
John Gabrieli's goal is to understand the organization of memory, thought, and emotion in the human brain. By combining brain imaging with behavioral tests, he studies the neural basis of these abilities in human subjects. In collaboration with clinical colleagues, Gabrieli also seeks to use brain imaging to better understand, diagnose, and select treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases.
One important research theme is the neural basis of learning in children. Gabrieli and colleagues have recently found structural differences in the brains of young children who are at risk for reading difficulties. Their findings suggest that it may be possible to target at-risk children for early intervention rather than waiting until they are already struggling to read. In another recent study, they have shown that adults and children with dyslexia show altered patterns of activity in many brain regions, an effect that may provide new insights into the fundamental cause of this condition. Gabrieli is also interested in the development of cognitive skills in school-age children, and in identifying ways that neuroscience could help improve educational outcomes.
Diagnosing and treating psychiatric disease
Neuroimaging can also provide new insights into psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Gabrieli and colleagues collaborate with clinical researchers at McLean Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital to examine the brains of psychiatric patients, with the ultimate goal of using neuroimaging to better diagnose and treat mental illness. In one recent study they have shown that it may be possible to identify children at risk for depression before symptoms appear. In another study, they have shown that brain scans of people with social anxiety disorders can help predict which individuals are most likely to benefit from a particular therapeutic intervention.
John Gabrieli is the director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the McGovern Institute. He is an Investigator at the Institute, with faculty appointments in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Institute for Medical Engineering & Science, where is holds the Grover Hermann Professorship. He also has appointments in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is the director of the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative. Prior to joining MIT in 2005, he spent 14 years at Stanford University in the Department of Psychology and Neurosciences Program. He received a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and a B.A. in English from Yale University. In 2016 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Image: Justin Knight Photography