Neuropsychologia, Morris Moscovitch, Rotman Research

Special issue of Neuropsychologia honours Rotman senior scientist

Dr. Morris Moscovitch, Rotman Research, Neuropsychologia

Dr. Morris Moscovitch, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and Max and Gianna Glassman Chair in Neuropsychology and Aging

Prominent peer-reviewed journal, Neuropsychologia, released a special issue honouring the work of Dr. Morris Moscovitch, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and Max and Gianna Glassman Chair in Neuropsychology and Aging.

The recently released September 2016 print issue features articles covering memory, consciousness and the brain which are written by some of Dr. Moscovitch’s more than 70 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows that he has supervised during his time at Baycrest and the University of Toronto. Many Baycrest staff and scientists contributed to published articles including Dr. Asaf Gilboa, Dr. Angela Troyer, Dr. Susan Vandermorris, Dr. Stefan Kohler, and Dr. Shayna Rosenbaum. These papers were presented at a festschrift, a conference held in honour of Dr. Moscovitch’s enormous contributions to neuropsychology (an area focused on studying the relationship between neuroscience and psychology).

“Morris has taught and inspired many neuroscientists during his career and he considers the success of his students and post-doctoral fellows as his proudest achievement and a main reason for his own accomplishments,” says Dr. Gordon Winocur, fellow RRI senior scientist, one of the editors of the special issue and the festschrift. He was assisted by one of Dr. Moscovitch’s colleagues, Dr. Lynn Nadel, and a former trainee, Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews.

“When we approached him with the idea of holding a festschrift, he asked that it feature the work of his former trainees, many of whom are leading scientists in the field.”

Over the years, Dr. Moscovitch’s research has led to a better understanding of the different types of memories formed and the consequences of damage to specific brain regions.

He has developed a number of theories which have had considerable impact amongst the scientific community. One example is his work on Trace Transformation Theory, a theoretical model developed with Dr. Winocur that aims to explain how different types of memory change overtime. The theory presents the idea that a memory is first formed as an episodic memory (rich, detailed memories of experiences) in the hippocampus. Over time, that memory transforms into a semantic memory (essential facts with few details) and is represented in other areas of the brain.

This theory helps explain why individuals who suffer damage to the hippocampus are able to retain very remote memories; they’re remembering the gist of the memories rather than all the inherent details.

“I was delighted to hear the high quality research and wide variety of scientific papers at the festschrift, which are now available for everyone to read in this special issue of Neuropsychologia,” says Dr. Moscovitch. “I’m grateful to my colleagues and former trainees for their hard work and friendship, as well as donors who helped support my work over the years.”

“Dr. Morris Moscovitch has provided a better understanding of how our brains are affected by brain injuries, but his contributions aren’t limited to his research findings,” says Dr. Randy McIntosh, Baycrest’s Vice-President of Research and Director of the RRI. “He has trained many excellent scientists who will continue to shape the field of cognitive neuroscience and contribute to providing better care for our aging population.”

Dr. Moscovitch has had a long, distinguished career with fellowships from many organizations, such as the Royal Society of Canada, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. He has received numerous awards, including the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, William James Fellowship, D.O. Hebb Award and the Distinguished Career Award from the International Neuropsychology Society.

The festschrift was supported by the late Dr. Max Glassman and Gianna Glassman, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts and Science and Department of Psychology, the RRI and the Ontario Mental Health Foundation.

Neuropsychologia is an international interdisciplinary journal devoted to contributions that advance understanding of human cognition and behavior from a neuroscience perspective. Dr. Moscovitch is a former editor of the publication.