January 2009: Alexandra Golby ’85


Dr. Alexandra J. Golby ’85 is a neurosurgeon and Director of Image-guided Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. She is also Principal Investigator of the Golby Lab, a surgical brain mapping laboratory at Harvard Medical School. She was graduated cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in physics and philosophy in 1989 and from Stanford University School of Medicine with an M.D. in 1995.

From July 1995 to June 1996, Dr. Golby was a resident in surgery at Stanford University Medical Center and then a resident in the Department of Neurosurgery. She was a visiting scholar in the Department of Psychology, while concurrently completing post-doctoral training in functional imaging. In 2001, Dr. Golby became Chief Resident in Neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She received fellowship training in Grenoble, France with Professor Alim Louis Benabid as a Dandy Fellowship recipient.

Dr. Golby has special clinical interests in epilepsy and brain tumors, and her research at the Golby Lab focuses on functional brain mapping using a variety of techniques to guide neurosurgical planning and intra-operative decision making. Her work aims to integrate information acquired from pre-operative brain mapping with intra-operative brain mapping and intra-operative imaging to provide the surgeon with optimal information to perform less invasive, safer, and more effective interventions. In addition, information learned from multi-modality mapping in patients can increase basic science knowledge of how the brain is organized and how it may reorganize in the face of injury. The Golby Lab originated through funding from the Brain Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, allowing Dr. Golby to assemble a team of extraordinary scientists working collaboratively to advance the field of image-guided surgery and functional brain imaging. By developing brain mapping techniques to better understand the functional anatomy of the brain and applying these techniques to surgical planning and in the operating room, Dr. Golby and her team are ensuring healthier outcomes and improving the quality of life for patients with brain tumors and epilepsy.

Several techniques exist that are able to take detailed pictures of the brain’s anatomy and of the brain in action. These functional brain mapping techniques include functional MRI (fMRI), Magnetoencephalography, diffusion tensor imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electrocorticography, and others. Using these techniques, a road map revealing some of the critical areas of the brain, such as areas responsible for movement, sensation, and speech, can be made. The goal of Dr. Golby’s work is to continue developing these techniques so that they can be most useful clinically. For example, for patients with meningiomas or other tumors or lesions in or next to the brain, brain mapping helps doctors determine the relationship between the critical brain areas and the tumor(s) prior to surgery.

Mapping techniques, like neurosurgery techniques, have become progressively less invasive, less risky, and less painful for patients. There is now an opportunity to obtain images from more areas of the brain, in more types of patients (including children), and under a greater variety of circumstances. As part of their work, Dr. Golby’s team combines information from multiple brain mapping methods to obtain the most reliable and complete data, overcoming the strengths and weaknesses intrinsic to different methods capturing different types of information.

Dr. Golby is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Women in Neurosurgery, American Association of Women Surgeons, Society for Neuroscience, and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. She is on the Board of Directors of the International Brain Mapping and Intraoperative Surgical Planning Society and on the Editorial Board of several medical journals. Dr. Golby mentors students from high school to post-graduate levels.

Dr. Golby lives in Roxbury Crossing, MA, with her husband, architect Chris Scovel, and her two sons, Phineas (2 ½) and Atticus (10 months).

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