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Darby lands award for research on complex human behaviors

May. 27, 2020, 2:09 PM


by Paul Govern

For outstanding contributions to research in behavioral neurology, Ryan Darby, MD, assistant professor of Neurology, has won the 2020 Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral Neurology from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

Ryan Darby, MD

With 36,000 members, the AAN is the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals.

Poised at the intersection of neurology, psychiatry and philosophy, Darby’s lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigates the neural mechanisms underlying complex human behaviors. Belief, morality and free will perception are commonly impaired in neurological patients, but the neuroanatomy and cognitive processes associated with these impairments aren’t well understood.

The lab’s overarching hypothesis is that neural correlates of these behaviors will not localize to a single brain region, but rather to common networks of connected brain regions.

Darby and colleagues have worked to develop neuroimaging methods to test this hypothesis in patients with focal brain lesions, dementia and psychiatric diseases. Because traditional neuropsychological tests do not assess processes related to these networks, the lab also develops behavioral tasks to measure belief evaluation, moral decision-making and reality monitoring.

Darby studied psychology and neuroscience as an undergraduate at Princeton University in New Jersey. He graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2011, trained at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and later completed research and clinical fellowships in Boston at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Psychiatric Hospital.

For more information, visit the lab’s website.

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