Megan Carey

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Megan Carey (photo by Tor Stensola)

Megan Carey is a neuroscientist and Group Leader of the Neural Circuits and Behavior Laboratory at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal.[1] She is known for her work on how the cerebellum controls coordinated movement.[2]

Education and early career[edit]

Carey completed her Bachelor and Master degrees at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.[3][4] She received her PhD in 2005 from University of California at San Francisco where she studied neural mechanisms of motor learning in Stephen Lisberger's lab.[2][5] She received the Krevans Distinguished Dissertation Award for her work.[6] Carey completed her postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School as a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow[7] in Wade Regehr's lab. There, she focused on the cell biology of neuromodulation and synaptic plasticity. Since 2010, she has been an independent group leader of the Neural Circuits and Behavior Laboratory.[1]


Carey's work focuses on the quantitative analysis of movement, using behavior, genetics, and physiology to dissect locomotion. She is interested in understanding how the cerebellum controls coordinated movement.

Her research group is focused on creating quantitative methodology to study coordinated movement. She developed an automated movement tracking system, called "LocoMouse" to capture and analyze paw, nose, and tail movements of normal mice and of mice affected by ataxia defects.[8] Using this system, she discovered that the forward steps of the ataxic Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd) mice are normal, but instead they have difficulty coordinating their movement. The tracking system dissects movement defects quantitatively to more precisely pinpoint phenotypic defects.

Her group recently uncovered an unexpected link between movement and learning.[9] While examining a type of learning called "eyeblink conditioning" in mice, Carey and her team noticed that the time to condition was highly variable between individuals and difficult to track. They noticed though, that by keeping all animals walking at a similar pace on motorized wheels, the variability diminished and the animals learned the task at a similar rate.[10] Surprisingly, if the animals then started moving at a faster pace, they learned the task quicker.

Carey also studies how changes in walking are learned through cerebellar circuits.[11] To study this, her group built a special "split-belt" treadmill for mice.[12] Using this device, mice learn to modulate their walking so that their front paws and back paws land at the same time, even though each side is moving at a different speed. They discovered that inhibiting neural circuits in the cerebellum, but not the cerebral cortex, was a detriment to learning the walking behavior.

In 2015, she received an ERC starting grant,[13] and in 2020, she received an ERC consolidator grant for her work.[14][15]

Scientific activities[edit]

  • Board of Reviewing Editors, eLife (2019–present)[16]
  • Neural Control of Movement Society, Board of Directors (2019–present)[17]
  • Alba Network: Towards equality and diversity in brain sciences, Executive Council (2018–present)[18]
  • The Research, Innovation, and Science Policy Experts (RISE) high-level advisory group to the European Commission, Open Science panel member (2015–2019)[19]
  • Gordon Research Conference on the Cerebellum, co-chair (2015–2019)[20]
  • FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence, chair (2017–2019)[21]
  • FENS Forum (Copenhagen & Berlin), Program Committee Member (2016, 2018)[22]
  • Editorial Board member, Scientific Reports (2016–2018)
  • COSYNE, co-chair (2016–2017)[23]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • George H. Acheson & Grass Foundation Prize (top Wesleyan graduate in Neuroscience), 1996[citation needed]
  • Krevans Distinguished Dissertation Award, UCSF, 2005[citation needed]
  • Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral fellowship, 2006[7]
  • Harvard University Research Enabling Grant, 2007[citation needed]
  • International Early Career Scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2012[24]
  • European Research Council Starting Grant 2015[13]
  • Scholar, FENS Kavli Network of Excellence, 2016[25]
  • European Research Council Consolidator Grant, 2020[14][15]


  1. ^ a b "Carey Lab". Champalimaud Research. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Megan Carey: Cerebellum Prober". The Scientist Magazine. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  3. ^ "Megan Carey". Champalimaud Research. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  4. ^ Olivia Drake (February 16, 2006). "Neuroscience and Behavior Alumni Present Research, Offer Advice". News @ Wesleyan. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  5. ^ "Cell Symposium: Neurotechnologies: Megan Carey, Champalimaud Research, Portugal". Cell Symposia. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  6. ^ Lani Pettersen (April 17, 2003). "Grad Students Honored". Synapse. Retrieved January 25, 2020 – via UCSF Library Synapse Archive.
  7. ^ a b "Profile". The Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  8. ^ Machado, Ana S.; Darmohray, Dana M.; Fayad, João; Marques, Hugo G.; Carey, Megan R. (October 3, 2015). "A quantitative framework for whole-body coordination reveals specific deficits in freely walking ataxic mice". eLife. 4. doi:10.7554/eLife.07892. ISSN 2050-084X. PMC 4630674. PMID 26433022.
  9. ^ Albergaria, Catarina; Silva, N. Tatiana; Pritchett, Dominique L.; Carey, Megan R. (May 2018). "Locomotor activity modulates associative learning in mouse cerebellum". Nature Neuroscience. 21 (5): 725–735. doi:10.1038/s41593-018-0129-x. ISSN 1097-6256. PMC 5923878. PMID 29662214.
  10. ^ Science Snapshot: Run Faster Learn Better / Quem Corre Mais Depressa Aprende Melhor. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  11. ^ Darmohray, Dana M.; Jacobs, Jovin R.; Marques, Hugo G.; Carey, Megan R. (April 3, 2019). "Spatial and Temporal Locomotor Learning in Mouse Cerebellum". Neuron. 102 (1): 217–231.e4. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2019.01.038. ISSN 0896-6273. PMID 30795901.
  12. ^ Untangling the Where and When of Walking in the Brain. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "1.5 million euros awarded to Champalimaud researcher to study how neural circuits coordinate locomotion". Champalimaud Research. December 2, 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Scientist awarded €2 million to investigate how the brain 'learns on its feet'". EurekAlert!. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  15. ^ a b "New EU Research Grants Worth $28 Million Benefit 13 US Scientists". EEAS - European External Action Service - European Commission (in Persian). Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  16. ^ "eLife Latest: 74 working scientists join the Board of Reviewing Editors". eLife. April 26, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  17. ^ "NCM Leadership". NCM Society. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  18. ^ "About us". Alba Network. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  19. ^ "News". Champalimaud Research. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  20. ^ "2019 Cerebellum Conference". GRC. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  21. ^ "Governance". FENS. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  22. ^ "Megan Carey". FENS. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  23. ^ "Computational and Systems Neuroscience (Cosyne) 2016". Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  24. ^ "HHMI's International EarlyCareer Scientists". Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  25. ^ "Megan Carey – FKNE". Retrieved January 5, 2020.

External links[edit]