Robert Sapolsky is a neuroendocrinologist who examines the mechanisms by which stress can damage the brain.
His work focuses on the ability of glucocorticoids, a class of hormones secreted during stress, to damage neurons of the hippocampus, an area of the brain critical to learning and memory. Having shown that glucocorticoids can damage the hippocampus in both rodents and primates, Sapolsky is investigating the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. His studies examine whether or not the same occurs in the hippocampus of the human brain, with potential implications for neurogerontology and Alzheimer’s disease. Since 1978, Sapolsky has spent part of each year studying a troop of wild baboons in an East African national reserve. His findings suggest that personality is a more important correlate of disease patterns than social rank. He is the author of Stress, the Aging Brain, and the Mechanisms of Neuron Death (1992), Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping (3rd ed., 2004), and The Trouble with Testosterone: And Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament (1997).
Sapolsky is the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences, Neurology, and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University.
Sapolsky received an A.B. (1978) from Harvard University and a Ph.D. (1984) from Rockefeller University.