Ryan Darby, MD
Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundational Fellow in the Clinical Neurosciences
M.D, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
B.A., Psychology and Neuroscience, Princeton University
Neurology Residency, Partners Neurology Program, Massachusetts General Hospital/ Brigham Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA
Internship, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University
I am interested in research at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, investigating neuropsychiatric disorders where what makes us uniquely human, such as our identity as a self or our capacity to behave morally, is impaired. While such impairments are devastating consequences of certain diseases such as frontotemporal dementia, schizophrenia, and focal injuries from trauma and stroke, objective tests of these deficits and a thorough understanding of their neural and psychological correlates are lacking.
Work in the field of psychology has revealed that processes as complex as morality are tied to specific neural networks involved in emotions such as empathy, altruism, harm, fairness, and disgust. I am currently working with moral psychologists at Harvard to develop novel psychological tests of social and moral behavior in patients with frontotemporal dementia which correspond to behaviors in real-life, predicting that these will align into two moral aversion networks in the brain: a harm-aversion network and an disgust aversion network. Impairments in each of these should correspond to specific abnormal behaviors in these patients.
My future goals are to incorporate techniques for investigating neural networks (diffusion-tensor imaging, resting state functional connectivity, and non-invasive brain stimulation) to investigate volition and cognitive control, self-awareness, and moral decision-making to further understand the role that these processes play in disease and recovery.
I am receiving clinical training in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry, focusing especially on disorders of social behavior and self-awareness, such as frontotemporal dementia, neuropsychiatric diseases, and from focal injuries such as strokes.
I enjoy swimming, traveling, cooking, and (most importantly) eating with my wife, friends, and family. I am an avid sports fan, and so I am slowly trying to learn New England sports such as sailing and skiing. My other hobby is writing, and when not at work I can often be found working on the next great American novel.
I hope to develop the research skills in neuroimaging and noninvasive brain stimulation necessary to understand how neuropsychiatric diseases impact our highest cortical functions (social behavior, language, conceptions of the self) in order to create novel treatments for these diseases.