Patricia Goldman-Rakic was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1937. She attended Peabody High School and then Vassar College. At Vassar, she studied experimental psychology. Patricia graduated from Vassar in 1959 with a B.A. in neurobiology. She went on to UCLA where she earned a Ph.D. in developmental psychology in 1963. There, her research focused on the links between stress and cognitive development in rats and marked the beginning of her interest in the connections between brain development and behavior. Following her time at UCLA, Patricia accepted a position at National Institute of Mental Health. During her 14 years at this institution, she discovered that the prefrontal cortex is much more than a confused mass of firing nerve cells and that it is instead made up of highly specialized nerve cells arranged in columns. In1979, Dr. Goldman-Rakic accepted a position at Yale University, She would spend the rest of her career at Yale. She was The Eugene Higgins Professor of Neuroscience in the neurobiology department with joint appointments in the departments of psychiatry, neurology, and psychology. Dr. Goldman-Rakic's research showed that methods employed to study the sensory cortices could be adapted to the highest order prefrontal cortical areas, revealing the circuit basis for higher cognitive function. Her research has led to a better understanding of schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, and dementia.
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