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Principal Investigator: Betsy Murray

Betsy Murray

Section on Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (SNLM)
Laboratory of Neuropsychology (LN)

Photo of Elisabeth Murray


Dr. Murray received her B.S. in Biology from Bucknell University and her Ph.D. in Physiology from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.  After postdoctoral work at the NIMH studying the neural substrates of tactual learning and memory, she became a tenured faculty member.  Dr. Murray is currently the Chief of the Section on the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory in the Laboratory of Neuropsychology at NIMH.  Dr. Murray received the Demuth Swiss Medical Research Foundation Award for Young Investigators in the Neurosciences and a PHS Special Recognition Award.

Research Interests

Dr. Murray’s laboratory studies the neural basis of learning, memory, emotion and response selection, with two main areas of focus.  The first of these two research programs involves the independent mnemonic contributions of the different medial temporal lobes structures, the extent to which different medial temporal lobe structures must interact in storing information and their interaction with the prefrontal cortex.  Her work has demonstrated that, for some types of memory, the entorhinal and perirhinal cortical regions in the ventral medial temporal lobe play a more important role than does the hippocampus.  Not only does this area, termed the rhinal cortex, specialize in storing knowledge about objects, but it may serve as the core system for semantic memory.

A second focus of the Murray laboratory is the neural bases of decision making.  This work examines the neural circuits critical for affective processing and the way in which affective information, including reward, guides response selection.  This work has shown that the amygdala and orbital prefrontal cortex operate as part of a network involved in emotion, reward-based learning and goal-directed behavior.  These circuits contribute importantly to behavioral flexibility in the face of changes in reward contingencies or reward value.  A key hypothesis is that the orbital prefrontal cortex is part of a larger prefrontal region critical for the valuation of choice outcomes.

Dr. Murray’s laboratory has pioneered the use of MRI-guided stereotaxic surgery, a method that has for the first time allowed examination of the selective mnemonic contributions of various medial temporal lobe structures.  

Selected Publications

Localization of dysfunction in major depressive disorder: prefrontal cortex and amygdala . Murray EA, Wise SP, Drevets WC. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jun 15;69(12):e43-54. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.09.041. Epub 2010 Dec 15. PMID: 21111403.

Dissociable effects of subtotal lesions within the macaque orbital prefrontal cortex on reward-guided behavior . Rudebeck PH, Murray EA. J Neurosci. 2011 Jul 20;31(29):10569-78. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0091-11.2011. PMID: 21775601.

What, if anything, can monkeys tell us about human amnesia when they can’t say anything at all? . Murray EA, Wise SP. Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jul;48(8):2385-405. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.01.011. Epub 2010 Jan 25. PMID: 20097215.

Functional interaction of medial mediodorsal thalamic nucleus but not nucleus accumbens with amygdala and orbital prefrontal cortex is essential for adaptive response selection after reinforcer devaluation . Izquierdo A, Murray EA. J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 13;30(2):661-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3795-09.2010. PMID: 20071531.

The amygdala, reward and emotion . Murray EA. Trends Cogn Sci. 2007 Nov;11(11):489-97. Epub 2007 Nov 7. PMID: 17988930.

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