Michael A Yassa

Associate Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior
School of Biological Sciences

Associate Professor, Neurology
School of Medicine

Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2010, Neurobiology

Phone: (949) 824-1687
Email: myassa@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
213 Qureshey Research Lab
Mail Code: 3800
Irvine, CA 92697

picture of Michael A Yassa

learning, memory, aging, alzheimer's disease, neuroimaging, depression, anxiety, hippocampus
URL Lab Website
2001 - Member, National Honor Society for Neuroscience (Nu Rho Psi)
2001 - Member, National Honor Society in Biology (Beta Beta Beta)
2001 - Member, National Honor Society in Psychology (Psi Chi)
2006 Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention
National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA
2007 - 2010 Graduate Research Fellowship
National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA
2010 Fine Science Tools Travel Award in Neuroscience
University of California, Irvine CA
2010 Roger W. Russell Scholar’s Award in the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory
Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Irvine CA
2010 Carl Cotman Scholar’s Award in the Neurobiology of Neurological Disorders
UC Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, Irvine CA
2011 Ossoff Scholars Award in Cognitive Disorders Research
Alzheimer’s Treatment Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore MD
2012 Distinguished Lectureship in Neuroscience and Aging
National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, MD
2013 Endowed Lectureship in Brain Aging, Director’s Research Circle
Center for Vital Longevity, University of Texas, Dallas, Dallas, TX
2014 Eugene Williams Endowed Lectureship
St. Luke’s Hospital, Chesterfield, MO
2015 Excellence in Teaching Award
National Society for Leadership and Success, University of California, Irvine, CA
2015 Departmental Service Award
Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, CA
2016 Robert Newcomb Interdisciplinary Team Science Award
Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, University of California, Irvine, CA
My laboratory is interested in how the brain learns and remembers information, and how learning and memory mechanisms are altered in aging and neuropsychiatric disease. The central questions in our research are:

1. What are the neural mechanisms that support learning and memory?
2. How are memory circuits and pathways altered in the course of aging, dementia, and neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety?
3. How can we identify early preclinical biomarkers that can distinguish between normal and pathological neurocognitive changes so that we can better design diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

To address these questions, we develop and refine cognitive assessment tools that specifically target memory processes and computations, such as pattern separation. We also develop, optimize, and use a host of advanced brain measurement techniques including high-resolution structural, functional, and diffusion MRI, PET, EEG, and intracranial recordings (ECoG) in patients, to explore the brain’s architecture at very fine levels of detail. We combine these approaches with more traditional psychophysics including measurements of galvanic skin response (skin conductance), heart rate variability, and eye tracking. We are also working with collaborators to develop novel platforms for cellular resolution functional imaging in awake, behaving animals using novel MRI tracers. Finally, we are actively developing and testing several pharmacological and nonpharmacological cognitive enhancement interventions in older adults at risk for dementia, including studies of physical exercise.
Publications Leal, S.L., Noche, J., Murray, E.A., Yassa, M.A. (2016) Remembering emotional gist and detail information: differences between aged memory-impaired and unimpaired individuals. Learning and Memory. In press
  Reagh, Z.M., Do, H., Noche, J., Murray, E.A., Leal, S.L., Chun, A., Yassa, M.A. (2016) Greater loss of object than spatial mnemonic discrimination in aged adults. Hippocampus 26(4):417-22.
  Leal, S.L., Yassa, M.A. (2015) Neurocognitive aging and the hippocampus across species. Trends in Neurosciences 38(12): 800–812.
  Cunningham, C., Yassa, M.A., Egeth, H.E. (2015) Massive memory revisited: Limitations on storage capacity for object details in visual long-term memory. Learning and Memory. 22(11):563-6.
  Chang, A., Murray, E. A., Yassa, M.A. (2015) Expertise and pattern separation: A potential mechanism for the “other race” effect. Behavioral Neuroscience 129(5):666-672
  Reagh, Z.M., Watabe, J., Ly, M., Murray, E., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Dissociated signals in human dentate gyrus and CA3 predict different facets of recognition memory. Journal of Neuroscience 34(40):13301-13.
  Reagh, Z.M., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Object and spatial mnemonic interference differentially engage lateral and medial entorhinal cortex in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111(40):E4264-73.
  Leal, S., Tighe, S., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Asymmetric effects of emotion on mnemonic interference. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 111:41-48.
  Yassa, M.A. (2014) Ground zero in Alzheimer’s disease. Nature Neuroscience 17:146–147.
  Borota, D., Murray, E., Watabe, J., Keceli, G., Toscano, J. Yassa, M.A. (2014) Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Neuroscience 17:201–203.
  Yassa, M.A., Reagh, Z.M. (2013) Competitive Trace Theory (CTT): A role for the hippocampus in contextual interference during retrieval. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 7:107.
  Reagh, Z.M., Roberts, J.M., Ly, M., DiProspero, N., Murray, E., Yassa, M.A. (2013) Spatial discrimination deficits as a function of mnemonic interference in aged adults with and without memory impairment. Hippocampus 24(3):303–314.
  Leal, S., Yassa, M.A. (2013) Perturbations of Neural Circuitry in Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Ageing Research Reviews 12(3):823-31.
  Bakker, A., Krauss, G., Albert, M.A., Speck, C.L., Jones, L.R., Stark, C.E., Yassa, M.A., Bassett, S.S., Shelton, A.L., Gallagher, M. (2012) Reducing hippocampal hyperactivity improves cognition in mild cognitive impairment. Neuron 74, 467-474.
  Yassa, M.A., Stark, C.E.L. (2011) Pattern separation and the hippocampus. Trends in Neuroscience 34(10):515-525.
  Yassa, M.A., Muftuler, L.T., Stark, C.E.L. (2010) Ultrahigh-resolution microstructural diffusion tensor imaging (msDTI) elucidates perforant path degradation in aged humans in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 107(28): 12687-91.
  Yassa, M.A., Lacy, J.W., Stark, S.M., Albert, M.S., Gallagher, M., Stark, C.E.L. (2010-11) Pattern separation deficits associated with increased hippocampal CA3 and dentate gyrus activity in nondemented older adults. Hippocampus 21:968-979.
  Yassa, M.A., Stark, S.M., Bakker, A., Albert, M.S., Gallagher, M., Stark, C.E.L. (2010) High-resolution functional MRI of hippocampal CA3 and dentate gyrus in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. NeuroImage 51:1242-1252.
  Yassa, M.A., Stark, C.E.L. (2009) A quantitative evaluation of cross-participant alignment techniques for MRI studies of the medial temporal lobe. NeuroImage 44(2):319-327.
  Lacy, J.W., Yassa, M.A., Stark, S.M., Stark, C.E.L. (2011) Distinct pattern separation related transfer functions in human CA3/dentate and CA1 revealed using high-resolution fMRI and variable mnemonic similarity. Learning and Memory 18(1):15-18.
  Leal, S.L., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Effect of aging on mnemonic discrimination of emotional information. Behavioral Neuroscience. 128(5):539-547.
  Leal, S.L., Tighe, S.K., Jones, C.J., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Pattern separation of emotional information in hippocampal dentate and CA3. Hippocampus. 24(9): 1146-1155.
  Roberts, J.M., Ly, M., Murray, E., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Temporal discrimination deficits as a function of lag interference in older adults. Hippocampus. 24(10):1189-96.
  Reagh, Z.M., Yassa, M.A. (2014) Repetition strengthens target recognition but impairs similar lure discrimination: Evidence for trace competition. Learning and Memory. 21: 342-346.
  Yassa, M.A., Mattfeld A.T., Stark, S.M., Stark, C.E.L. (2011) Age-related memory deficits linked to circuit-specific disruptions in the hippocampus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 108(21):8873-8.
  Yassa, M.A., Stark, C.E.L. (2008) Multiple Recognition-related signals in the medial temporal lobe. Hippocampus 18(9): 945-954.
Grants NIA R01 AG034613 - High-resolution structural and functional brain imaging of the medial temporal lobe in neurocognitive aging
NIMH R01 MH102392 - Neural mechanisms of emotional memory modulation in major depressive disorder
NIH/NIA R21 AG049220 - Selective Age-Related Vulnerability In Human Perirhinal And Lateral Entorhinal Cortices
NIH/NIA U01 AG051412 - Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Down Syndrome
Society for Neuroscience
Cognitive Neuroscience Society
International Society to Advance Alzheimer's Research and Tr
Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience
American Psychological Association
Graduate Programs Neurobiology and Behavior

Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

Research Centers UC Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders
Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
Link to this profile http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=6078
Last updated 08/01/2016