Prominent Memory Researcher Recruited to UT Dallas

Dr. Michael Rugg, one of the world’s leading memory researchers, is scheduled to join UT Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) in January.

Rugg will serve as Distinguished Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences in the Center for Vital Longevity and will collaborate with other BBS faculty on a variety of projects. Rugg will work with Dr. Denise Park, director of the center and a specialist on the aging brain, on several major research efforts.

Rugg now is director of the Center for the Neurobiology of  Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. He is chairman of the Cognition and Perception Study Section of the National Institutes of Health.

Having published dozens of articles in top neuroscience journals and edited and contributed to several books, Rugg is frequently asked to present at conferences and seminars throughout the world. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009 and a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science earlier this year.

Rugg said joining UT Dallas will help him move his research forward.

“What appeals to me about UT Dallas is the commitment of the University to strengthening its excellence in research, the quality of the faculty and students, and the opportunity to contribute to the development of a new center of excellence in cognitive neuroscience and the understanding of age-related changes in cognitive function,” he said.

Rugg plans to continue several of his current projects, which use functional MRI and electroencephalography to study the brain activity associated with acquiring and retrieving memories, and how this activity changes with age.

“Additionally, I will be establishing a new laboratory that will use a technique called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation to study the effects on memory of temporarily disrupting the function of specific brain regions,” he said.

When he joins UT Dallas, Rugg will bring with him two National Institute of Mental Health R01 awards, which support basic research on human memory. One is focused on the neural correlates of episodic memory encoding and the other on episodic retrieval.

Rugg said he intends to collaborate with his new colleagues on individual research projects but also is looking forward to supporting the expansion of the Center for Vital Longevity by developing grants to fund multi-investigator, thematically linked projects.

The UT System’s STARS program facilitated Rugg’s recruitment. STARS was created by system regents to help attract outstanding researchers to Texas institutions. The program funds start-up packages that go toward developing laboratory resources for faculty relocating to the UT System.

Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS, said Rugg should be a great addition to UT Dallas’ team of neuroscience researchers.

“One of the domains of greatest advancement in the last 10 years in the field of human behavior is our understanding of how the brain remembers, and how those memories are retrieved,” Moore said. “Mick Rugg is one of world’s foremost leaders of this understanding. His careful, multipronged approach to understanding human memory has led to major breakthroughs not only related to basic processes of memory, but also how aging or injury may impact memory. We are very pleased that he has decided to join our faculty in cognitive neuroscience and contribute to the University’s newly formed Center for Vital Longevity.”

The Center for Vital Longevity was established earlier this year to focus on understanding and expanding the capacity of the aging mind. Center researchers use brain-imaging technologies and advances in cognitive science to understand how the brain changes as it ages and to investigate interventions that show promise for slowing cognitive aging.

“Mick Rugg has an international reputation for his research on how the brain functions to remember, and how this changes with age,” center director Park said. “He brings tremendous intellectual capital to the center, and his hire will make the Center for Vital Longevity one of the most productive and visible research groups focused on the aging mind in the nation. I am thrilled to have him join us and look forward to many productive collaborations among our research groups.”

Rugg joined UC Irvine in July 2003. Previously he was a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and University College London. He earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Leicester in England.

Dr. Michael Rugg’s current projects use functional MRI and electroencephalography to study the brain activity associated with acquiring and retrieving memories.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].