Rachel Bennett, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Neurology
I am a post-doctoral researcher at the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND) with expertise in cellular neuroscience and Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout my academic career my research interests have spanned three key areas providing me with a comprehensive background in 1) pathways of neurodegeneration 2) inflammation and the immune system in the brain 3) in vivo imaging methods. As a graduate student in the lab of Dr. David Brody at Washington University in Saint Louis, I had the opportunity to work on a fascinating topic in traumatic brain injury. My F31-funded thesis work explored interactions between the immune system and injured neurons following concussion and had clear translational implications. During my graduate studies, I developed skills in small animal surgery, conducted in vivo imaging using diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging, and performed histological and biochemical assays for inflammation and cellular degeneration pathways. As a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Bradley Hyman’s lab at MIND, I have worked to apply these skills to the study of Alzheimer’s disease and continue developing proficiency in other imaging methods such as two-photon microscopy to visualize pathophysiological changes in the intact living brain. This research proposal is the direct result of observations I have made using two-photon microscopy, including the exciting discovery that tau pathology alters microvasculature within the brain. This has spurred me explore how these changes in vasculature may relate to reduced blood flow and contribute neurodegeneration—a research direction I look forward to pursuing as I continue my career in academic science. As part of this research plan, these studies will advance our knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease through investigation of specific interactions between immune cells (leukocytes) and disrupted brain microcirculation using state-of-the-art imaging techniques and translational models.