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 Staff Scientists and Clinicians

Maura L. Furey, Ph.D.
Maura Furey Photo   Dr. Furey is a Staff Scientist in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, Molecular Imaging Branch, Section on Neuroimaging in Mood and Anxiety Disorders, National Institute of Mental health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda Maryland. She attended college at George Mason University, and graduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park where she earned her Ph.D. in Biopsychology. Prior to joining the MAP, Dr. Furey was a Senior Staff Fellow in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the NIMH.
Research Interests
Dr. Furey's research at the NIMH has focused on the development of a program to study the functional organization of memory and attention in humans using functional brain imaging techniques (PET, fMRI and MEG) and pharmacological modulation. Specifically, she has focused on studying the role of cholinergic neurotransmission in working memory and attention. Results from this work in healthy humans have demonstrated that during working memory, enhancement of cholinergic function paradoxically results in reduced regional cerebral blood flow in right prefrontal cortical activity, a brain region consistently associated with working memory, and that this reduction in prefrontal activity correlated with improved task performance. Results from fMRI studies corroborate the PET findings, and further reveal enhanced processing in posterior visual areas. Specifically, she found that ventral extrastriate and parietal regions show enhanced selectivity for task relevant stimuli, particularly during the encoding of stimuli. The results indicate that cholinergic enhancement improves working memory performance by augmenting the selectivity of perceptual processing during encoding, thereby simplifying processing demands during memory maintenance and reducing the need for prefrontal participation.

Dr. Furey also has combined pharmacologic probes and functional brain imaging to study other populations, by investigating the role of the cholinergic system in cognitive impairment observed in healthy aging and Alzheimer disease. Currently she is developing studies designed to understand the role of the cholinergic neurotransmitter system in deficits observed in depressive disorders. Evidence indicates that during major depressive episodes, the cholinergic system is hypersensitive to acetylcholine through the muscarinic receptors. The hypotheses associated with this research project predict that the hyperstimulation of the cholinergic system is responsible for the emotional processing bias and cognitive deficits observed in depression. The administration of the muscarinic antagonist, scopolamine, is expected to diminish the processing biases and the cognitive impairment that may result from the biased processing of emotional stimuli. Neuroimaging will be used to identify the neurobiological correlates associated with these effects.
Representative Selected Recent Publications:
  • Haxby, J.V., Gobbini, I., Furey, M.L., Ishai, A., Shouten, J.L., Pietrini, P.: Distributed and overlapping representations of faces and objects in ventral temporal cortex. Science, 293: 2252-30, 2001.
  • Grady, C.L., Furey, M.L., Pietrini, P., Horwitz, B., Schapiro, M.B., Rapoport, S.I.: Altered functional connectivity among prefrontal and medial temporal regions and impaired short-term memory in Alzheimer’s disease. Brain, 124: 739-756, 2001.
  • Furey, M.L., Pietrini, P., Haxby, J.V.: Cholinergic Enhancement and Increased Selectivity of Perceptual Processing during Working Memory. Science, 290: 2315-2319, 2000.
  • Furey, M.L., Pietrini, P., Alexander, G.E., Schapiro, M.B., Horwitz, B.: Cholinergic enhancement improves performance on working memory by modulating the functional activity in distinct regions: A positron emission tomography regional cerebral blood flow study in healthy humans. Brain Research Bulletin, 51(3), 2130218, 2000.
  • Furey, M.L., Pietrini, P., Alexander, G.E., Mentis, M.J., Szczepanik, J., Shetty, U., Greig, N.H., Holloway, H., Schapiro, M.B., Freo, U.: Time Course of Pharmacodynamic and Pharmacokinetic Effects of Physostigmine Assessed by Functional Brain Imaging in Humans. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 66: 475-481, 2000.
  • Furey, M.L., Pietrini, P., VanMeter, J., Lee, H.C., Alexander, G.E., Haxby, J.V., Grady, C.L.,Shetty, U., Rapoport, S.I., Schapiro, M., Freo, U.: Cholinergic modulation alters performance and task-specific rCBF during working memory task. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., USA 94: 6512-6519, 1997.

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This page was last updated January 13, 2011.

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