Campus & Community

Neuroscientist Buckner named professor of psychology

3 min read

Uses new imaging techniques to explore memory

Randy L. Buckner, a neuroscientist noted for his innovative use of new imaging techniques to map human memory formation and retrieval, has been named professor of psychology in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, effective Oct. 1. Buckner is also affiliated with Harvard’s newly formed Center for Brain Science.
Buckner, 35, comes to Harvard from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was associate professor of psychology, neurobiology, and radiology. He is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“Professor Buckner is an unusually broad-ranging and talented scientist who has conducted path-breaking research into numerous aspects of human memory,” said William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “His leading role in developing new neuroimaging methods has had a substantial impact on neuroscience and earned him wide acclaim from his peers. He is also highly regarded as a stimulating teacher and mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students.”

Buckner uses neuroimaging techniques to explore brain areas involved in human memory. His work has changed the way researchers use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a key means of viewing brain activity. Specifically, he has played a leading role in creating event-related fMRI, which allows scientists to link neural data to subjects’ responses during experiments. This advance permits, for instance, analysis of how brain activity differs when study participants recall events accurately versus inaccurately.

Numerous experimental findings from Buckner’s laboratory have led his field in new directions. His group has shown convincingly that activity in the brain’s parietal lobe – a part of the brain not previously linked to memory – plays a role in remembering past experiences. Buckner and colleagues have also provided fMRI evidence revealing how age-related changes in the frontal lobe are linked to the decreasing ability of older adults to form new memories. Working with Alzheimer’s patients, he has been one of the first psychologists to apply molecular imaging techniques to the analysis of memory.

Buckner earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in 1991, 1993, and 1995, respectively. He held postdoctoral fellowships there and at Harvard Medical School before being appointed assistant professor of psychology and neurobiology at Washington University in 1997 and assistant professor of radiology in 1998, receiving promotion to associate professor in all three departments in 2001. Buckner was an assistant investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2000 to 2004, becoming a full HHMI investigator this year.

Buckner received the Wiley Young Investigator Award for Human Brain Mapping in 1999 and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s Young Investigator Award in 2002, and was named a fellow of the American Psychological Association in 2004. He currently serves on the editorial boards of 10 professional journals, including Neuron, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.