Alyssa A. Brewer, M.D.,Ph.D.

Alyssa A. Brewer, M.D.,Ph.D.

Director & Principal Investigator

University of California, Irvine

Research Training: I have had a lifelong interest in disease and the brain. To foster a career spanning both these interests, I completed a dual degree M.D./Ph.D. program at Stanford University to become a physician-scientist. During my graduate training in Neurosciences with Brian Wandell, Ph.D., I discovered and characterized three new visual areas in the human brain (e.g., Brewer et al., Nature Neuroscience 2005), made the first visual field map measurements with fMRI in macaque cortex (Brewer et al., Journal of Neuroscience 2002), and developed the proposal of visual field map clusters as a fundamental, organizing principle of human visual cortex (e.g., Brewer et al., Nature Neuroscience 2005; Wandell, Brewer, Dougherty, Phil Trans Roy Soc 2005; Wandell, Dumoulin, Brewer, Neuron 2007). I was also an instrumental member on several collaborative projects that investigated developmental plasticity in human rod monochromats (Baseler, Brewer et al., Nature Neuroscience 2002) and cortical plasticity induced by retinal lesions in adult macaque (Smirnakis, Brewer et al., Nature 2005). During my postdoctoral work at Stanford, I received training in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) through a project investigating white matter changes in temporal lobe epilepsy and collaborated on a project using DTI to measure the inter-hemispheric connectivity of human primary visual cortex (Dougherty, Ben-Shachar, Bammer, Brewer, Wandell, PNAS 2005).To complement my neuroscience graduate and postdoctoral training, I simultaneously completed medical school with a concentration of clinical experiences in neurology and neurosurgery.

Current Work: Since starting in 2007 as a Professor at the University of California, I have been pursuing several lines of research arising from this training. My lab focuses on visual, auditory, and multi-sensory cognitive neuroscience, using behavioral, genetic, and high-resolution neuroimaging techniques to investigate questions ranging from the fundamental organization of human visual cortex, functional plasticity in visuomotor regions, and visual changes in dementia, to the organization and function of human auditory cortex and collaborative studies of human-robot social interactions and decision making. Current work is delving into the normal structure and function of the human visual and auditory systems, cortical plasticity under abnormal conditions such as stroke, and the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. We are also expanding into studies of chronic pain and online behavioral studies of visual working memory. In addition, I have been involved in the development and application of the cutting-edge neuroimaging software from my graduate lab at Stanford that uses population receptive field (pRF) modeling (Dumoulin and Wandell, NeuroImage 2008; Wandell, Dumoulin, Brewer, Neuron 2007). We apply this software to detailed measurements of pRFs which we use to define visual field map clusters across human visual cortex and cerebellum.

  • M.D. , 2007

    Stanford University School of Medicine

  • Ph.D. in Neuroscience, 2005

    Stanford University Neurosciences Graduate Program

  • B.S.,H. in Biological Sciences with Departmental Honors, 1996

    Stanford University

  • A.B., InH in Comparative Literature with Interdisciplinary Honors in the Humanities, 1999

    Stanford University