Maria Natasha Rajah

Human Neuroscience

Maria Natasha Rajah

GH-2114, Brain Imaging Centre

6875 Boulevard LaSalle
Montréal, QC
H4H 1R3

Research area: 
Clinical Research / Human Research

Research Theme: 
Ageing, Cognition and Alzheimer's disease

Director, Brain Imaging Centre, Douglas Research Centre 
Full Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Associate Member, Department of Psychology, McGill University

Cognitive neuroscience of aging & memory

Our lab, led by Natasha Rajah, conducts behavioural and neuroimaging studies in the cognitive neuroscience of memory, aging and dementia prevention. We use structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods to investigate how biological and demographic variables (i.e. biological sex, genetics, sex hormones, education, bilingualism, etc.) impact the neural networks mediating episodic memory encoding and retrieval across the adult lifespan.  We also conduct parallel studies in adults with risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The goals of our research program are to understand:

  • How does the brain encode and retrieve episodic memories?
  • How does healthy aging impact the neural correlates of learning and memory across the adult lifespan?
  • How does biological sex, stress, hormones and lifestyle factors influence cognitive and brain function as we age?
  • How do these changes differ in adults at-risk vs. not at-risk of AD?
  • What differentiates older adults who perform as well as young adults on memory tasks (high-performers), from those who exhibit age-related memory decline?

1.    Kwon, D.*, Maillet, D.*, Pasvanis, S., Ankudowich, E., Grady, C. L. & Rajah, M. N.* (2015). Context memory decline in middle aged adults is related to changes in prefrontal cortex function. Cerebral Cortex, doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv068. *Authors contributed equivalently to the writing of this manuscript.
2.    Rajah, M. N., Maillet, D & Grady, C.L. (2015).  Book Chapter: Episodic Memory in Healthy Older Adults: The Role of Prefrontal and Parietal Cortices. The Wiley Handbook on the Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory. Editors: D. Addis, M. Berense & A. Duarte.
3.    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.
4.    Maillet, D. & Rajah, M. N. (2014). Dissociable roles of default-mode regions during episodic encoding. Neuroimage,  89, 244-255.
5.    Maillet, D. & Rajah, M. N. (2013). Age-related changes in the frequency of mind- wandering and task interferences at encoding and their impact on memory retrieval. Memory, 21 (7), 818 -831.
6.    Maillet, D*. & Rajah, M. N.* (2012). Association between prefrontal activity and volume change in prefrontal and medial temporal lobes in aging and dementia: A review. *Both authors contributed equivalently to the writing of this paper. Invited review for Aging Research Reviews, 12 (2), 479-489.
7.    Maillet, D. and Rajah, M. N. (2011). Reduction in hippocampal-head volume with aging is associated with altered encoding-related activity and impaired context memory performance. Brain Research, 1420, 68-79.
8.    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.
9.    Crane D, Maillet, D., Floden, D.,Valiquette L. and Rajah, M. N. (2011).  Similarities in the patterns of prefrontal cortex activity during spatial and temporal context memory retrieval after equating for task structure and performance. Neuroimage, 54(2), 1549-64.
10.    Rajah. M. N., Kromas,M., Han J. E.,  Pruessner, J. C., (2010). Group differences in anterior hippocampal volume and in the retrieval of spatial and temporal context memory in healthy young versus older adults. Neuropsychologia, 48(14),4020-30.
11.    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.
12.    Rajah, M. N., Ames, B. and D’Esposito, M. (2008). Prefrontal contributions to domain-general executive control processes during temporal context retrieval. Neuropsychologia, 46, 1088-1103.
13.    Rajah, M.N. and McIntosh, A. R. (2006). Dissociating prefrontal contributions during a recency memory task.  Neuropsychologia, 44(3):350-64. 
14.    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.  
15.    Rajah, M. N. and McIntosh, A. R. (2005).  Overlap in the functional neural systems involved in semantic and episodic memory retrieval. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 (3), 470-483.  


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. In 2007, she was awarded a prestigious CIHR New Investigator Salary Award and in 2009 she was promoted to Associate Professor. Dr. Rajah's research is focused on the cognitive neuroscience of memory and aging. In 2011 Dr. Rajah was promoted to Director of the Douglas Brain Imaging Centre. Dr. Rajah currently holds a FRQ-S Junior 2 Research Scholar Award.

1. Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQ-S), Junior 2 Salary Award, 2013-2015
2. John R. & Clara M. Fraser Memorial Award, 2012-2013
3. Selected for “Top 50 under 50” by Quebec Science Magazine, 2012
4. Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), New Investigator Salary Award, 2007-2012
5. Fonds de la Recherche en Santé Québec (FRSQ), Junior 1 Salary Award, 2007-2010
6. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF), 2002-2004
7. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS B), 2000-2002
8. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS A), 1998-2000
9. Travel Award, Organization for Human Brain Mapping, 2000

Graduate Students

  • Sivaniya Subramaniapillai,  Ph.D. Student, Psychology 
  • Abdel Halim Elshiekh, Ph.D. Student, IPN Program
  • Jamie Snytte, M.Sc. Student, IPN Program

Undergraduate Student

  • Camille Beaudoin

Research Assistants

  • Stamatoula Pasvanis (2014-current)
  •  Myles LoParco (2019-current)


Previous RAs

  • 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 Students

  • 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