Peter R. Rapp, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience


251 Bayview Boulevard
Suite 100
Baltimore, MD 21224


Research Topics

Models of Neurocognitive Aging: Age-related deficits in cognitive function compromise the quality of life and are among the most troubling consequences of growing older. A major line of research in the Neurocognitive Aging Section (NAS) is aimed at establishing a nonhuman primate model for defining the basis of normal cognitive aging, and for developing effective interventions. Early studies succeeded in revealing the basic neuropsychological profile of aging, and we have now turned attention to the specific nature of decline, with the aim of defining the effects of aging on the component processes of declarative/episodic memory. Young and aged monkeys are tested across a battery of novel assessments that manipulate demands on key operating characteristics of memory: 1) the contributions of recollection and familiarity to visual recognition, 2) memory for spatial and non-spatial context, 3) the temporal structure of experience, and 4) the relational organization of memory. An important goal of these studies is to develop a detailed and sensitive framework for testing the working hypothesis that age-related decline results from large-scale restructuring of the neural networks that support normal memory. Toward this end, subjects receive periodic high resolution, structural MRI and corresponding [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose PET scans, over the course of neuropsychological testing. Metabolic activity in the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe system is then evaluated in relation to individual variability in the cognitive outcome of aging. The incidence of menstruation and urinary hormone profiles are also tracked, enabling evaluation of the behavioral and imaging results in relation to naturally occurring ovarian failure.


Dr. Rapp received his Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1986. After postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego, California, he accepted a position on the faculty of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. From 1997 until joining the NIA in 2008, he was Associate Professor of Neuroscience, and Geriatrics and Adult Development at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, holding various positions including Interim Chair of the Fishberg Department of Neuroscience (2006-2008), the Mount Sinai Endowed Chair in Neuroscience, and Co-Director of the Graduate Training Program in Neuroscience. His extramural research on the cognitive and neurobiological consequences of normal aging has received continuous NIH funding since 1989. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including the position of Section Editor at Neurobiology of Aging. Author of numerous basic research reports, reviews and book chapters, Dr. Rapp's research interests focus on epigenetic contributions to age-related cognitive decline, in vivo imaging studies of neurocognitive aging, and the development of strategies aimed at promoting optimally healthy cognitive aging.

Selected Publications

  1. Weiler M, Stieger KC, Long JM, Rapp PR. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Alzheimer's Disease: Are We Ready? eNeuro. 2020;7(1).
  2. Cooper CP, Shafer AT, Armstrong NM, Rossi SL, Young J, Herold C, Gu H, Yang Y, Stein EA, Resnick SM, Rapp PR. Recognition Memory is Associated with Distinct Patterns of Regional Gray Matter Volumes in Young and Aged Monkeys. Cereb Cortex. 2022;32(5):933-948.
  3. Tomás Pereira I, Gallagher M, Rapp PR. Head west or left, east or right: interactions between memory systems in neurocognitive aging. Neurobiol Aging. 2015;36(11):3067-3078.
  4. Weiler M, Moreno-Castilla P, Starnes HM, Melendez ELR, Stieger KC, Long JM, Rapp PR. Effects of repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in aged rats depend on pre-treatment cognitive status: Toward individualized intervention for successful cognitive aging. Brain Stimul. 2021;14(5):1219-1225.
  5. Baxter MG, Roberts MT, Roberts JA, Rapp PR. Neuropsychology of cognitive aging in rhesus monkeys. Neurobiol Aging. 2023;130:40-49.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Friday, August 11, 2023