New Faculty Spotlight: Maiya Geddes

“As a clinician scientist, I deeply value the opportunity to impact the lives of patients, to work in a multidisciplinary environment and to train the next generation of experts.”

Dr. Maiya Geddes is a clinician-scientist at The Neuro and an Assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. The goal of Dr. Geddes’ research is to determine the brain mechanisms underlying the interaction between motivation and cognition in aging. To address this goal, she applies cutting-edge behavioural and neuroimaging techniques.

What excites you about working at The Neuro?

I am excited to be at The Neuro because it is a highly collaborative environment and has an international reputation as a leader in translational neuroscience and brain imaging research. As a clinician scientist, I deeply value the opportunity to impact the lives of patients, to work in a multidisciplinary environment and to train the next generation of experts.

Tell us about your interest in studying motivation? How is your work going to benefit patients?

Changes in motivation are pervasive in human aging and cause profound disability and functional decline. The goal of my research program is to determine the brain processes underlying motivation-cognition resilience in aging. I apply cutting-edge behavioral and brain imaging techniques to study these processes in older adults.

I am dedicated to translating insights from my research into meaningful brain-based interventions for patients and seniors; this includes the development of brain-informed techniques to engage older adults in critical health behaviors, such as exercise. In addition, our findings will help identify new therapeutic targets to treat motivational disorders in age-related disease.

How do you hope to inspire the next generation of neuroscientists?

My teaching goals echo themes from my research on motivated learning. As an educator, I strive to harness and promote a learner’s natural curiosity about the mind and brain. Behavioural and neuroimaging studies have shown that the reward network is recruited by our intrinsic motivation to learn, and that curiosity promotes consolidation of new material.

Similarly, reward and memory networks are recruited by novelty and affective states. Presenting information in unique and stimulating ways capitalizes on these principles and enhances learning.

My overall goals in teaching are to ignite excitement, translate concepts across disciplines, and inspire learners to ask meaningful questions of their own.

What motivates you?

I am dedicated to cultivating dialogue between the arts and sciences. I engage in artistic educational projects using painting, sculpture and mixed media that communicate cognitive neuroscience concepts to trainees and the public.

Integrating humanities into neuroscience and medical education offers opportunities to present concepts from novel perspectives. The humanities also have an important place in promoting empathy, creativity and expression in medicine and neuroscience.

Maiya:

Essentially, I'm trying to do two things.

On the one hand, I'm trying to understand resilience. So, define the brain processes that help older adults engage in healthy behaviors like exercise. Because we have lots of information that these kinds of behaviors are important for our brain health.

But there's almost no evidence about how to implement that information.

So on the one hand, I'm studying resilience, and on the other hand, I'm studying how motivation might fall apart or be impacted in neurological disorders.

I also am very passionate about cultivating an interdisciplinary dialogue between arts and sciences. And the humanities and medicine is something that's extremely important to me because I think it cultivates empathy,

I think it cultivates compassion, connectedness, it allows us to express ourselves, and fosters creativity in a slightly different way.

Also to translate concepts to a wider public. I think the arts has a really important part in science.

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The Neuro is a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.