Ann Graybiel, Ph.D.

Ann Graybiel, Ph.D.

Institute Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Principal Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A.B. (1964) – Harvard University
Woodrow Wilson Fellow (1965) – Tufts University (Department of Biology)
Ph.D. (1971) – Massachusetts Institute of Technology


In a line of pioneering experiments beginning with her discovery of the modular organization of the striatum, Ann Graybiel has systematically elucidated the functional architecture of the basal ganglia and has documented the existence of major plasticity in striatal electrical activity and molecular cell signaling related to habit learning and repetitive behaviors. The basal ganglia were known to underlie disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, but were largely unexplored due to their complexity and inaccessible position deep in the forebrain. Graybiel and her group were the first to demonstrate a systematic functional architecture in the striatum, the largest structure of the basal ganglia. The work of Graybiel and her group on habit formation has been transformative in identifying neural circuits and activity patterns underlying the development of habits and their persistence, and in identifying circuit functions related to the control of mood and motivation. 

The work of the Graybiel laboratory is leading to an integrated view of the basal ganglia as forebrain structures concerned with learning and expressing the action plans that guide motor and cognitive-affective behavior. Taken together, the scientific work of Graybiel and her coworkers has major implications for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, their cellular and genetic basis, and therapeutic strategies to relieve them. 

On the basis of her work, Graybiel was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (1988), to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), and to the Institute of Medicine of the USA (1994). She was awarded the Dow Award in 2002, the Prix Plasticité Neuronale IBSEN in 2005, and the Vanderbilt Prize in 2008. In 2001, Graybiel was awarded the National Medal of Science of the United States, the nation’s highest science award. In 2012, Graybiel received the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience.