Mara Mather is Professor of Gerontology and Psychology at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on how emotion and stress shape memory and cognition and how such influences differ depending on one’s age and gender.
Although emotional or stressful experiences tend to be memorable, emotional arousal can also impair various aspects of memory. Dr. Mather and colleagues developed the Glutamate Amplifies Noradrenergic Effects (GANE) model to explain this dual nature of arousal. GANE posits that arousal enhances high-priority neural representations but suppresses low-priority neural representations, and these increases in gain are due to interactions between norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter closely linked with arousal) and glutamate (the brain's primary excitatory neurotransmitter). This model can account for the often apparently contradictory effects of emotional arousal on perception and memory. In addition, Mather’s work addresses how emotion-cognition interactions differ among younger and older adults.
Her research elucidating the interaction of emotion, cognition, and aging has been recognized with the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association, an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship, and a National Institutes of Health K02 Career Development award, among other awards. Mara Mather received an A.B. in psychology from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Princeton University.