Ray Razlighi is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine. He is the director of the Quantitative Neuroimaging Laboratory and the imaging director of the Brain Health Imaging institute. He received his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and his Ph.D. in Signal and Image Processing from the University of Texas. He joined the faculty of Columbia University in 2013 after completing two postdoctoral fellowships at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Irving Medical School. His research focus is on functional brain imaging to understand how brain networks function and interact to execute complex tasks. He has authored over 70 scientific articles. He is currently an associate editor for Brain Connectivity and Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and a member of numerous research communities included but not limited to: Society for Neuroscience, Human Brain Mapping, and IEEE. He has trained approximately 25 undergraduate students, 5 Ph.D. students, and 7 postdoctoral fellows in his laboratory throughout his career. He is the recipient of numerous research awards from Columbia University research initiatives in science and engineering (RISE), Taub Institute Alzheimer’s disease research center (ADRC), and Irving Institute integrating special populations (ISP). His current research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging.
For as long as I can remember, I loved discovering toys, tools, appliances, and electronics around me. I knew from an early age that I was deeply into science and engineering – apparently, I broke every toy I had, especially the electric ones, to figure out how they work or move. I had planned to become a mechanical or civil engineer, but in high school, I learned about electromagnetic and microwaves. Having gotten a taste of the amazing new cellphone as the most heartwarming gadget of those days, I yearned for more, and my dreams came true as I began my undergrad education in Electrical Engineering and Telecommunication. As a top student, I received a full scholarship for my undergraduate study covering both my tuition and living expenses which was unquestionably the best thing that could have happened to me. It was amazing that within four years not only did I learn a lot about the cellphone networks, but I also pretty much had an overall understanding of any electronics around me. Upon graduating as an honors student, I immediately received a job offer from an R&D company developing equipment for cellphone networks.
However, like many fresh graduates, I soon became unsatisfied and bored as I realized that pursuing an industry career was not fulfilling my curiosity and my desire to discover new things. So, I enrolled in a PhD program with a research focus on signal and image processing. During my PhD training, I introduced a new causal Markov random field (MRF) model, named Quadrilateral MRF, which has been influential for image registration and segmentation. So far, it has resulted in twelve publications and one patent. Before graduating, I was offered a postdoctoral position to apply my new models to medical imaging and particularly brain images. During my postdoctoral training, I was introduced to MRI and fMRI, which seemed like a perfect match for my background in telecommunication and electromagnetic waves. Over the past decade, I could not have been more amazed by fMRI research. The fact that we have so little understanding of brain function and its underlying neurophysiology makes this field extremely appealing to me because there is so much to be discovered. Despite all of the pros and cons of fMRI and the lack of preliminary knowledge about the brain’s neurophysiology, I have come to believe that fMRI is the best tool for this line of research.
After my postdoc training, I became a faculty of Neurology at Columbia University and started to build my laboratory. The main track of research in my lab is one of fMRI controversies, often referred to as negative BOLD response which essentially provides evidence that brain hemodynamic response to any external stimulation is more often in the opposite direction (loss of blood flow/volume). In 2020, I transferred my laboratory to Weill Cornell Medicine where I plan to explore applications of the negative BOLD signal in understanding brain healthy functioning as well as its malfunctioning during the course of numerous neurodegenerative diseases. In my leisure time, I can most often be found playing with my nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son, or doing some small projects around the house. I also enjoy playing soccer, barbequing, and swimming or dancing with my daughter. My family and I love to be outdoors, hiking, or just sitting together at the beach and reading. While I appreciate warmer weather in the winter breaks, I usually prefer cold and snow which lets me ski with my family.