Maria Natasha Rajah
PhD

  • Theme-Based Group: 
    Aging, Cognition, and Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Division: 
    Human Neuroscience

 

Office: 
GH-2114, Brain Imaging Centre

6875 Boulevard LaSalle
Montréal, QC
H4H 1R3




Full Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Associate Member, Department of Psychology, McGill University
Research Chair, Sex & Gender, Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health & Addiction, CIHR



Cognitive neuroscience of memory, aging and dementia prevention



My lab conducts sex and gender research in the cognitive neuroscience of memory, ageing and dementia prevention. The goals of our research program are to identify the biological, environmental, and societal factors that support the maintenance of normative memory and brain function in women and men from diverse backgrounds across the adult lifespan, and determine what factors lead to more women than men developing late-onset sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). To address these goals, we use behavioural experimentation in combination with multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), demographic, neuropsychological, psychosocial, physiological, hormonal, and genetic measurements in young, middle-aged and older adults, with and without known risk factors for AD (i.e., having a family history of AD (+FH) or an apolipoprotein E e4 allele (+APOEe4)), and apply multivariate and machine learning statistical methods to these data to:

  1. Develop more representative and generalizable large-scale neural network models of memory and brain ageing in women and men from diverse socio-cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
  2. Identify biological, demographic, psychosocial, and systemic factors that support or hinder the health and resilience of these memory and cognition-related brain networks across the adult lifespan, with a focus on midlife  
  3. Advance current theories of cognitive reserve, brain resilience and compensation in healthy and pathological neurocognitive ageing that consider sex, gender, and the diversity of our ageing population.

The long-term goal of our research program is to support the creation of new therapeutic approaches and policies that help optimise brain health and memory function in women and men, as early as midlife; and thus, prevent or delay the onset of age- and AD-related memory decline and promote a higher quality of life for more older adults.


 

  1. Rabipour, S., Rajagopal, S., Pasvanis, S., and Rajah, M.N. (2021). Generalization of memory-related brain function in asymptomatic older women with a family history of late onset Alzheimer's Disease: Results from the PREVENT-AD Cohort. Neurobiology of Aging 104, 42–56.. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2021.03.009
  2. Corriveau-Lecavalier, N., Rajah, M.N., Mellah, and  S., Belleville, S. (2021). Latent patterns of task-related functional connectivity in relation to regions of hyperactivation in individuals at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. NeuroImage: Clinical 30, 102643.. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102643
  3. Subramaniapillai, S., Rajagopal, S., Snytte, J., Otto, A.R., Einstein, G., and Rajah, M.N. (2021). Sex differences in brain aging among adults with family history of Alzheimer’s disease and APOE4 genetic risk. NeuroImage: Clinical 30, 102620.. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102620
  4. Snytte, J., Elshiekh, A., Subramaniapillai, S.,Manning, L., Pasvanis, S.,  Devenyi, G., Olsen, R.K. and  M. N. Rajah (2020). The ratio of posterior-anterior medial temporal lobe volumes predicts source memory performance in healthy young adults. Hippocampus, published online first, 1-19, DOI: 10.1002/hipo.23251.
  5. Elshiekh, A., Subramaniapillai, S, Rajagopal, S., Pasvanis, S., Ankudowich, E. A. and M. N. Rajah (2020). The association between cognitive reserve and performance-related brain activity during episodic encoding and retrieval across the adult lifespan. Cortex, 129, 296-313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2020.05.003.
  6. Rabipour, S., Rajagopal, S., Yu, E., Pasvanis, S., Lafaille-Magnan, M.E., Breitner, J., PREVENT-AD Group, and Rajah, M.N. (2020). APOE4 status is related to differences in memory-related brain function in asymptomatic older adults with family history of Alzheimer’s disease: Baseline analysis of the PREVENT-AD task fMRI dataset. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 76 (1), 97-119.
  7. Subramaniapillai, S., Rajagopal, S., Elshiekh, A., Pasvanis, S., Ankudowich, E. A. and Rajah, M. N. (2019). The neural correlates of age-related spatial context memory decline differ in women, compared to men. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 31 (12), 1895-1916.
  8. Ankudowich,E., Pasvanis,S. ,& Rajah,M.N. (2018).Age-related differences in prefrontal-hippocampal connectivity are associated with reduced spatial context memory. Psychology and Aging, 34 (2), 251-261.
  9. Cabeza, R., Albert, M., Belleville, S., Craik, F., Duarte, A., Grady, C. L., Lindenberger, U., Nyberg, L, Park, D., Reuter-Lorenz, P. A., Rugg, M. D., Steffener, J., and M. N. Rajah (2018). Maintenance, reserve, and compensation: the cognitive neuroscience of healthy ageing. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, 19 (11), 701-710.
  10. Rajah, M. N. , Wallace, L., Manning, L., Patel, R., Yu, E., Swierkot, A., Ankudowich, E., Naumova, D., Pruessner, J., Joober, R., Gauthier, S. & Pasvanis, S., (2017). The impact of AD risk-factors on the neural correlates of spatial context memory at midlife.  Neuroimage: Clinical, 14, 760-777.
  11. Ankudowich, E., Pasvanis, S. & Rajah, M. N. (2017). Changes in the correlation between spatial and temporal source memory performance and BOLD activity across the adult lifespan. Cortex, Special Issue “Cognitive Neuroscience of Source Memory” edited by K. Mitchell & S.E. MacPherson, 91, 234-249.
  12. Ankudowich, E., Pasvanis, S. & Rajah, M. N. (2016) Changes in the modulation of brain activity during context encoding vs. context retrieval across the adult lifespan. Neuroimage, 139, 103-113.
  13. Maillet, D., & Rajah, M. N. (2016). Assessing the neural correlates of task-unrelated thoughts during episodic encoding and their association with subsequent memory in young and older adults. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28 (6), 826-841.
  14. Kwon, D.*, Maillet, D.*, Pasvanis, S., Ankudowich, E., Grady, C. L. & Rajah, M. N.* (2016). Context memory decline in middle aged adults is related to changes in prefrontal cortex function. Cerebral Cortex, 26(6), 2440-2460. *Authors contributed equivalently to the writing of this manuscript.
  15. Maillet, D. & Rajah, M. N. (2014). Age-related differences in brain activity in the subsequent memory paradigm: A meta-analysis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 45, 246-57.
  16. Rajah, M. N., Languay, R.  and Grady C.L. (2011). Age-related changes in right middle frontal gyrus volumes and its impact on retrieval-related activity and retrieval accuracy. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(49), 17941-54.
  17. Rajah, M. N., Languay, R., and Valiquette, L. (2010) Age-related changes in prefrontal cortex activity are associated with behavioural deficits in both temporal and spatial context memory retrieval in older adults. Cortex, 46, 535-549.
  18. Rajah, M. N., and D’Esposito, M. (2005). Region specific changes in prefrontal function with age: a review of PET and fMRI aging studies on working memory and episodic memory. Brain, 128:1964-83. 

Dr. M. Natasha Rajah received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Toronto in 2003 and did her post-doctoral training at U.C. Berkeley, 2003-2005. She joined the Douglas Institute in 2005 as Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry. She has been awarded several awards and honours including: the CIHR New Investigator Salary Award (2007-2012), FRQ-S Junior 2 Research Scholar Award in (2012-2016), Haile T. Debas Prize (2019), and CIHR Chair in Sex & Gender Research in Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction (2020-2024). She served as the inaugural Director of the Douglas Brain Imaging Centre (BIC)  from July 2011-December 2020. She currently serves as Chair of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at the Douglas Research Centre; Co-Chair of EDI and The Chair of Memberships at the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration and Aging (CCNA); Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Neuroscience (CAN), and Board of Advisors for the Women in Cognitive Science Society Canada (WiCSC).  She is a Senior Editor at Brain Research, Associate Editor at Psychological Science and Editor-in-Chief at Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition.


  1. Sex and Gender Chair in Neuroscience, Mental Health & Addiction, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), April 2020-2024
  2. Haile T. Debas Prize for Promoting Equitable Diversity, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, May 2019
  3. Mentorship Award, Women in Cognitive Science Canada, May 2019
  4. Elected Member, Memory Disorders Research Society (MDRS) http://clm.utexas.edu/mdrs/, April 2019
  5. Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQ-S), Junior 2 Salary Award, 2013-2015
  6. John R. & Clara M. Fraser Memorial Award, 2012-2013
  7. Selected for “Top 50 under 50” by Quebec Science Magazine, 2012
  8. Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), New Investigator Salary Award, 2007-2012
  9. Fonds de la Recherche en Santé Québec (FRSQ), Junior 1 Salary Award, 2007-2010
  10. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF), 2002-2004
  11. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS B), 2000-2002
  12. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS A), 1998-2000
  13. Travel Award, Organization for Human Brain Mapping, 2000

Current Team

Postdoctoral Researcher

  • Dr. Annalise LaPlume, Ph.D. 2021- current
  • Dr. Rikki Lissaman, Ph.D.  2022 - current

Graduate Students

  • Abdel Halim Elshiekh, Ph.D. Student, IPN Program
  • Jamie Snytte, Ph.D. Clinical Student, Psychology Program
  • Alicia Duval, Ph.D. Clinical Student, Psychology Program
  • Arielle Crestol, M.Sc. Student, IPN Program
  • Sophia LoParco, M.Sc. Student, IPN Program
  • Gabriella Vélez Largo, M.Sc. Student, IPN Program

Undergraduate Student

  • Bronwen Lathrop, Departments of Cognitive Science & Psychology
  • Lucie Russell, Departments of Cognitive Science & Psychology
  • Meaghan Smith, Departments of Cognitive Science & Psychology

Research Assistants

  • Stamatoula Pasvanis, Full-time (2014 - current)
  • SriCharana Rajagopal, Full-time (2020 - current)
  • Houman Azizi, Research Assistant, Full-time (2021 - current)
  • Oceane Bellon, Research Assistant, Part-time (2021 - current)
  • Alexandra Condescu, Research Assistant, Part-time (2022 - current)

 

Alumni

Previous RAs

  • Lina Khayyat
  • Rosalie Young
  • Maria del Pilar Fajardo
  • Angela Potes
  • Luc Valiquette, M.A. (now a Conseil multidisciplinaire at Louis-H. Lafontaine)
  • Rafael Languay (now a Pharmacy student at Université de Montreal)
  • Claire Han (now an IPN graduate student with Jorge Armony)
  • Lauren Crawford (now applying for medical school)
  • Sidney Pinto (now an HR manager)

Previous Trainees

  • Sivaniya Subramaniapilla, Ph.D. Student, IPN (now a Posdoctoral Researcher at MILA with Dr. Bzdok)
  • Crystal Yang, Undergraduate Honour Student (now completing her B.Sc. at McGill University)
  • Sheida Rabipour, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher (now a Consultant at McKinsey & Company)
  • Elizabeth Ankudowich, Ph.D. Student, IPN (now Grants Officer, NIH)
  • Lyssa Manning, M.Sc. Student, IPN (now RA with Dr. R. Sperling, Harvard University)
  • Rachel Hum, Undergraduate Volunteer (now in Chiropractor's College)
  • Kiera Hooper, Undergraduate Honour Student (now completing her B.Sc. at McGill University)
  • Lesley Wu, Undergraduate Honours Student (now applying to graduate school)
  • Daniel Davies, Undergraduate Honours Student (now in Medical School, U. of Toronto)
  • David Maillet, Ph.D. (now a Post-doc at Rotman Research Institute)
  • Karina Borja, M.Sc. (now Ph.D. student at Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)
  • Dave Crane, M.Sc. (now a MRI scientist, Sunnybrook Hospital)
  • Renee Gordon, Post-doc (now Medical Writer, New Zealand)
  • Michelle Kromas, Undergraduate Student (now a medical student)
  • Diana Kwon, M.Sc., (now a Scientific Writer, Chicago, USA)
  • Alexander Swierkot, M.Sc. (now in Medical school, McGill University)
  • Lindsay Wallace, M.Sc. (now Ph.D. student at Dalhousie University)
  • Jackie Lam, Undergraduate Student (applying to graduate school) 
  • Hannah Restle, Undergraduate Student (applying for graduate school)
  • Idil Kilinc, Undergraduate Student (applying for clinical psychology programs)

Recent publications