NINDS Names Dr. Lorna Role as Scientific Director

NINDS Names Dr. Lorna Role as Scientific Director

Monday, March 11, 2019

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, has named neuroscientist Lorna Role, Ph.D., as Scientific Director.

“Dr. Role’s groundbreaking research and broad leadership experience make her optimally suited to direct a superb intramural program,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., NINDS director. “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Role and look forward to working with her to advance the NINDS mission to seek fundamental knowledge of the nervous system and to translate that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disorders.”

The Scientific Director oversees NINDSIntramural Research Program (IRP), which consists of scientists working in labs on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Scientists in NINDS’ IRP conduct research on basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience in areas such as synaptic transmission, movement disorders, structural neurobiology, biophysics, neurodegeneration, neural circuits, neuropharmacology, neurodevelopment, stroke, brain imaging, neurogenetics, and neuroimmunology. The NINDS IRP includes 48 labs and 1015 employees.

Dr. Role received a BA in applied mathematics from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and earned her Ph.D. in physiology from the same institution. After completing her postdoctoral training with Gerald Fischbach, M.D., who served as NINDS director from 1998-2001, she became an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City in 1985. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1992 and full professor in 1996. In 2008, Dr. Role moved to become professor and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (SBU). In 2016 she was named a SUNY Distinguished Professor.

The focus of Dr. Role’s research has been on the brain’s cholinergic system over the lifespan. Cholinergic signaling is essential for attention, cognitive processing and memory and is compromised in neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She has been the principal investigator on numerous NIH-funded grants, supported continuously since 1982 and the recipient of an NINDS Javits award. She has published more than 100 scientific articles. Over her career at both Columbia University and SBU, Dr. Role has mentored more than 50 postdoctoral fellows, graduate and medical students, and nearly 20 undergraduate students.

Dr. Role has also earned numerous awards and honors, including being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011, and a Fellow in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2009. She received three separate awards from the McKnight Foundation at different stages of her career and was twice named as a Distinguished Investigator by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, now the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. In 2010, she received the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, which is granted to extremely creative researchers proposing innovative strategies for solving big problems in medical research. 

Dr. Role will be replacing Alan Koretsky, Ph.D., who has served as NINDS’ scientific director since 2006.


The NINDS ( is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Headshot of Lorna Role, Ph.D.

Lorna Role, Ph.D., has joined the NINDS as the Scientific Director. Image courtesy of Dr. Role.