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Benjamin Cocanougher

Benjamin Cocanougher

  • Alumni
  • United States
  • 2016 PhD Zoology
  • St Catharine's College

I grew up catching praying mantises and damselflies in rural Kentucky. As an undergraduate at Centre College, I majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; I spent my summers taking care of sick children at the Center for Courageous Kids and doing research in organic chemistry and neuroscience. I matriculated directly to the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and completed my first three years of medical school. I then moved to Janelia Research Campus as a HHMI Medical Research Fellow; there I studied the neural and genetic bases of behavior. As a PhD student in Zoology, I will study adaptive behavior. All animals integrate information about past experience into future decisions; this is the basis of learning and memory. I am proposing to write a specific memory and read the memory trace in the brain. I will use the fruit fly as a model organism. By understanding mechanisms of memory storage, we can begin to investigate changes in memory formation in disease; this may allow us to develop rational therapies for disorders of memory formation, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease. After completing my PhD, I will return to finish my last year of medical school and pursue a career as a child neurologist and neuroscientist, using my lab to better understand the patients I see in clinic.

Previous Education

Centre College

Latest News

75K dollar grant for tech to aid people with disabilities

A Gates Cambridge Scholar and his colleague have been awarded a prestigious grant from Facebook Reality Labs to investigate the barriers people with disabilities may face with regard to accessing augmented and virtual reality. Dr Pradipta Biswas and Professor Yogesh Simmhan have been awarded a $75,000 grant from Facebook Reality Labs for their proposal on […]

Gut bacteria links to immune responses in the brain

Bugs in the gut may hold the key to protective immune measures in the brain which could have implications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Zachary Fitzpatrick. A paper based on his PhD research has recently been published in Nature and it highlights […]

Exploring the social barriers to take-up of green technology

How can rural communities be encouraged to take up green energy solutions? A new study co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath investigates the social barriers to uptake of household appliances fuelled by green energy. Based on research on more than 14.5K households in rural communities in Rwanda, the study, published in Renewable Energy, found […]

A new technique to decode the way the nervous system works

How do the billions of neurons in the human brain work together to give rise to thought or certain types of behaviour? A new study led by Gates Cambridge Alumnus Eviatar Yemini [2007] outlines a colouring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible – at least in experiments […]

An innovative approach to plant protection

Shauna-Lee Chai is passionate about working on wicked problems, about using her entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of others and about seeing the big picture, something she says her experience as a Gates Cambridge Scholar contributed to. Her expertise is in invasive plant species and for three years she was Board Director of the […]

How does LSD affect the brain?

LSD induces a profoundly altered state of consciousness, but the effects on the brain are more nuanced and complex than previously thought, according to a new study. The study, whose first author is Gates Cambridge Scholar Andrea Luppi, is published in Neuroimage. Andrea’s work is concerned with studying consciousness and LSD is known to profoundly […]

Why context matters in criminology

Kofi Boakye’s PhD comparing young people’s offending in Ghana with that in the US and UK found that context matters when it comes to explaining crime and developing effective methods to prevent it. Previously most of the data had been based on Western studies which have been mainly focused on white people. Kofi questioned the […]

Researchers publish glioma frequency map

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have created a tumour frequency map for one of the most common forms of brain tumour – which could aid treatment. For decades, it has been known that gliomas follow a non-random spatial distribution, appearing more often in some brain regions than others. Researchers believe that a better understanding […]

First structure of a fungal GPCR

A new study led by a Gates Cambridge Scholar sheds light on the atomic structure of fungal G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are membrane proteins that convert signals from a wide range of stimuli. They are also the targets of approximately 34% of all Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, due to their wide-ranging important functions […]

Study highlights interconnected financial impact of COVID

Global GDP will drop three percent below pre-pandemic estimates by the end of 2021, with many Western nations seeing “deeper and longer-lasting” effects compared to China and other Asian economies, according to a new study co-authored by a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Moreover, nations that adopted less stringent lockdowns – Sweden, for example – will not […]