Patricia Goldman-Rakic

Patricia Goldman-Rakic
Born April 22, 1937
Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Died July 31, 2003
Hamden, Connecticut, United States
Nationality United States
Fields neurobiology
Institutions Yale University
Alma mater Vassar, UCLA
Doctoral advisor Wendell Jeffrey
Doctoral students
Notable awards

Patricia Goldman-Rakic (pronounced ra-KEESH) née Shoer (April 22, 1937 July 31, 2003) was an American neuroscientist/neurobiologist known for her pioneering study of the frontal lobe and her work on the cellular basis of working memory.[2]

Education and Career

Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Goldman-Rakic earned her bachelor's degree in neurobiology from Vassar in 1959, and her doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles in Developmental Psychology in 1963.[3][4] After postdoctoral positions at UCLA and New York University, she worked at the National Institute of Mental Health in neuropsychology and ultimately as chief of developmental neurobiology.[3] She moved to Yale School of Medicine in 1979 where she remained until her death. She was The Eugene Higgins Professor of Neuroscience in the neurobiology department with joint appointments in the departments of psychiatry, neurology, and psychology.[5]


Goldman-Rakic was the first to discover and describe the circuitry of the prefrontal cortex and its relationship to working memory. Before Goldman-Rakic, scientists thought that the higher cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex were beyond the scope of scientific study. Goldman-Rakic's research showed that methods employed to study the sensory cortices could be adapted to the highest order prefrontal cortical areas, revealing the circuit basis for higher cognitive function.[6] Because of Goldman-Rakic, scientists began to better understand the neurobiological basis of higher cognitive function, and of such disorders as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, and dementia. She used a multidisciplinary approach, applying biochemical, electrophysiological, pharmacological, anatomical and behavioral techniques to study working memory.[1] She pioneered the first studies of dopamine influences on prefrontal cortical function, research that is critical to our understanding of schizophrenia, ADHD and Parkinson's disease. A review of her life's work, including her special role mentoring women scientists, can be found in the journal Neuron.[7] Goldman-Rakic was also the founder of the Cerebral Cortex Journal, a specialized publication by Oxford Press.

Early on in her career, Goldman-Rakic's studied the capacity of the brain to repair itself in early development, and was one of the first to use radioactive tracers to examine this phenomenon.[8]

Personal life

Goldman-Rakic had two sisters—her twin Ruth Rappaport and younger sister Linda Shoer—both of whom earned PhDs in science. Goldman-Rakic was married to Pasko Rakic, also a neuroscientist.


On July 29, 2003, Goldman-Rakic was struck by a car while crossing a street in Hamden, Connecticut. She died two days later, on July 31 at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Goldman-Rakic was 66 years old.[5] She is buried in Grove Street Cemetery.[1]


Goldman-Rakic received the following honors:[1]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "In Memoriam: Patricia Goldman-Rakic, Preeminent Yale Neuroscientist who Made Groundbreaking Discoveries in Working Memory and Explored the Brain's Frontal Lobe". Yale News. August 1, 2003. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  2. "Renowned neuroscientist Patricia Goldman-Rakic dies". Yale Bulletin and Calendar. 32 (1). August 29, 2003. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  3. 1 2 "Patricia Goldman-Rakic." Newsmakers, Issue 4. Gale Group, 2002. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007.
  4. J. M. Fuster, Patricia Goldman-Rakic 1937-2003, Nature Neuroscience 6, 1015 (2003) doi:10.1038/nn1003-1015
  5. 1 2 Dawson, M (2003). "Patricia Goldman-Rakic dies: Sudden death of multidisciplinary trailblazer in frontal lobe studies shocks the world of neuroscience".
  6. Goldman-Rakic PS (1995). "Cellular basis of working memory". Neuron. 14: 447–485. doi:10.1016/0896-6273(95)90304-6. PMID 7695894.
  7. Arnsten Af (2003). "Patricia Goldman-Rakic: A Remembrance". Neuron. 40: 465–70. doi:10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00685-8.
  8. Aghajanian, George; Bunney, Benjamin; Holzman, Philip (2003). "Patricia Goldman-Rakic, 1937–2003". Neuropsychopharmacology. 28. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300325.
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