Amy Arnsten, PhD
Albert E. Kent Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology; Member, Kavli Institute of Neuroscience at Yale University
Years active at Yale: 1987-present
Dr. Arnsten is being recognized for excellence in research and teaching. She is an international expert on the molecular regulation of the newly evolved brain circuits that subserve higher cognition, which are the target of such disorders as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Much of her work focuses on the prefrontal cortex, a newly evolved brain region that creates our "mental sketchpad," and subserves abstract reasoning, high order decision-making, working memory, and thoughtful regulation of attention, behavior, and emotion (including inhibition of inappropriate thoughts, actions and feelings). Her research has shown that exposure to uncontrollable stress or advancing age weakens network connections by opening ion channels near synapses, leading to loss of neuronal firing and cognitive impairment. Her work has successfully translated to new treatments for cognitive disorders in humans, including guanfacine (IntunivTM) for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and related prefrontal cortical disorders, and prazosin for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Arnsten has held MERIT and Pioneer Awards from the National Institutes of Health, and was awarded the 2015 Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Research in Cognitive Neuroscience. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
In addition to her research, Dr. Arnsten is a prize-winning teacher who has taught Yale medical students, graduate students, and undergraduates, as well as medical residents and fellows. She teaches about the neurobiology of mental illness with the hope that it will help reduce stigma. Her research on stress has also led to new programs aimed at de-escalating potentially violent situations by restoring higher brain functions during threatening conditions.