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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

Laura Flashman, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Flashman uses a combination of cognitive testing, anatomic imaging, and functional magnetic resonance imaging to understand the brain and behavior. Her work focuses on schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases, mild cognitive impairment, early Alzheimer's, and traumatic brain injury.

How did you decide to go into your field?

Before graduate school, I took a fantastic course in Behavioral Neurology at the Harvard Extension School. Each week the professor presented a case with the person present—one week someone with aphasia, one week someone with temporal lobe epilepsy, one week someone with spatial neglect. I was hooked and knew that I wanted to study neuropsychology.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you like to be?

I would like to be an actress (I have been accused of being overly dramatic!), but I get stage fright. I think I probably would be an accountant.

Are there misconceptions people have about your work?

I deal with really basic misconceptions all the time when I talk to people about both neuropsychology ("Does that mean you can read my mind?") and schizophrenia ("Isn't that having multiple personalities?").

What kind of books do you like to read?

I read fiction avidly, mostly mysteries, romance, and popular fiction. I am currently reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I keep meaning to read anything by Jane Austen but continue to pass her books over for more relaxing reading.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?

I really like taking photographs and doing things outside (hiking, skiing, walking on the beach). I have enjoyed doing these activities with my children and watching them become more independent each year.

What's the last movie you saw?

The Incredibles. I saw it in the theater originally, but we also own the video. I love to go to the movies but haven't had a chance to

see anything but children's movies for the past several years. I've probably seen the Harry Potter movies a dozen times each.

If you could travel anywhere you've never been, where would it be?

Australia, Nova Scotia, and Banff are on my must-see list. I also want to visit all 50 United States and have four left: Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

What famous person, either living or dead, would you most like to meet?

I'd like to meet John Nash, the Nobel-Prize-winning mathematician [and the subject of A Beautiful Mind] who also suffers from schizophrenia.

What about you would surprise most people?

I am something of a thrill seeker—I have jumped out of an airplane and white-water rafted and enjoy scuba diving.

What do you admire most in other people?

Integrity, intelligence, ability to share knowledge in a way others can understand, productivity, and a sense of humor.

What's the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?

In research, you have to develop a thick skin, because papers and grants get rejected often. Learning to move past that, and to benefit from reviewer criticisms and get your work out there anyway, is a hard but important lesson.

What do you ultimately want to discover?

A way to improve the quality of life for people who suffer from severe mental illness.

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