Kafui Dzirasa: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 2 by Conner Chen and Version 1 by Conner Chen.
  • neural circuit
  • dzirasa

1. Introduction

Kafui Dzirasa (born 1978) is an American psychiatrist and Associate Professor at Duke University. He looks to understand the relationship between neural circuit malfunction and mental illness. He was a 2019 AAAS Leshner Fellow and was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Medicine in 2021.

2. Early Life and Education

Dzirasa was born to Abigail, a nurse, and Samuel Dzirasa, a civil engineer. His parents were from Accra, Ghana, and moved to the United States in 1971.[1] Dzirasa grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland.[1] While he was in college he met one of his childhood heroes who specialized in brain science.[2] He was an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he received a Meyerhoff Scholarship.[1] He switched from chemistry to chemical engineering at UMBC. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 2001.[3] He joined Duke University with the intention of completing a PhD in biological engineering and designing neuroprosthetics.[3] After visiting the schizophrenia ward at Duke University, Dzirasa switched to medicine.[3] He earned a PhD in neurobiology in 2007.[4][5] He was awarded the Duke University Somjen Award for Outstanding Dissertation Thesis.[6][7] He was the first African-American student to graduate with a doctorate in neurobiology from Duke.[1] He completed his MD in 2009. His graduate work was supported by the Ruth K. Broad Biomedical Research Fellowship, the UNCF-Merck Graduate Science Research Fellowship and the Wakeman Fellowship.[8] He was inspired to focus on mental illness after watching his family members suffer from bipolar disorder and completed his residency training in psychiatry in 2016.

3. Career

Dzirasa is interested in how mechanisms in neural circuits underpin emotional behavior.[8] His ultimate aim is to use neuroelectrical stimulation to treat mental illness.[9] He has considered the fluctuations of local field potential oscillations in the brain. Dzirasa developed a multi-circuit in vivo recording technique that can be used with selective modulation using designer drugs.[10] He used machine learning to identify a spatiotemporal dynamic network that can predict depression.[11] He has looked at how the electrical patterns in the brain impact of mice cope with stress; finding that mice who were more sensitive to stress had higher activation in their prefrontal cortex compared to the less sensitive mice.[12][13] He demonstrated that the network is distinct biologically from the networks that are dysfunctional after stress.[11]

His work was featured on CBS in 2011.[14] He is an Associate Professor at Duke University, where he served on the advisory committee of the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative. In 2016 Dzirasa was awarded the PECASE for his work on the interaction of genes under stress.[15] He has also looked at the characterisation of sensorimotor gating in schizophrenic patients.[16] His goal is to design a pacemaker for the brain that can regulate the electrical signals that underlie mental disorders.[3]

3.1. Advocacy and Academic Service

Dzirasa delivered a TED talk at TEDMED, where he discussed curing mental disorders with electronic engineering.[17][18] He spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about how to use technology to transform mental illness.[19][20] He has also spoken at the National Academy of Medicine, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, McLean Hospital and One Mind.[21][22][23][24]

Dzirasa is interested in providing education about health to underserved communities.[25] He is committed to improving diversity within the academic community, and founded the Association of Underrepresented Minority Fellows in 2007.[26] He has served on the Board of Directors of the Student Medical Association, which looks to eradicate health disparities.[25] He is a mentor for the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program.[27] Dzirasa is committed to the undergraduate community at Duke University, and welcomes trainee students to his lab every year - in particular those from underrepresented groups.[27]

3.2. Awards and Honors

  • 2021 Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Medicine[28]
  • 2019 AAAS Leshner Fellowship[29]
  • 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers[15]
  • 2016 White House Frontiers Conference[30][31]
  • 2016 Duke Medical Alumni Emerging Leader Award[32]
  • 2013 Sidney Baer Prize for Schizophrenia Research[33]
  • 2011 International Mental Health Research Organization Rising Star Award[34]
  • 2008 Ebony magazine's 30 Young Leaders of the Future[6][35][36]
  • 2007 Charles Johnson Leadership Award


  1. "Kafui Dzirasa" (in en). 2018-10-02. https://www.aiche.org/community/bio/kafui-dzirasa. 
  2. "Dr. Kafui Dzirasa" (in en). https://usasciencefestival.org/people/dr-kafui-dzirasa/. 
  3. "Creating a "Pacemaker" for the Brain" (in en-US). 2017-05-31. https://magazine.umbc.edu/creating-a-pacemaker-for-the-brain/. 
  4. "Kafui Dzirasa | Duke Institute for Brain Sciences | Brain Functions Research & Science". https://dibs.duke.edu/scholars/kafui-dzirasa. 
  5. "Celebration of Science - Speaker: Kafui Dzirasa". https://www.milkeninstitute.org/events/conferences/summit/celebration-of-science/speaker-detail/9744. 
  6. "UMBC News". https://www.umbc.edu/blogs/umbcnews/2008/01/kafui_dzirasa_01_in_ebony_magazine.html. 
  7. "Next Generation Neuropsychiatric Diagnostics and Therapeutics | Duke Institute for Brain Sciences | Brain Functions Research & Science". https://dibs.duke.edu/events/next-generation-neuropsychiatric-diagnostics-and-therapeutics. 
  8. "Kafui Dzirasa, MD, PhD to Present at Duke Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds on May 26 | Duke Neurobiology". https://www.neuro.duke.edu/research/research-news/kafui-dzirasa-md-phd-present-duke-psychiatry-and-behavioral-sciences-grand. 
  9. "2018 Grand Challenges Symposium: Understanding how changes in the brain produce neurological and mental illness" (in en). 2018-04-04. https://pratt.duke.edu/about/events/63042. 
  10. Dzirasa, Kafui (in en). Enabling Stress Resistance. http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R01-MH099192-02. 
  11. "Mapping Emotions: Discovering Structure in Mesoscale Electrical Recordings". 2018-09-20. https://zuckermaninstitute.columbia.edu/mapping-emotions-discovering-structure-mesoscale-electrical-recordings,%20/mapping-emotions-discovering-structure-mesoscale-electrical-recordings. 
  12. "New study identifies why some deal with stress better" (in en). https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/29/study-underlying-cause-stress/13321593/. 
  13. "Networks of brain activity predict vulnerability to depression: Listening in on the brain's electrical symphony may provide a new way to prevent and treat mental illness" (in en). https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180301144207.htm. 
  14. (in en-US) Reaching above the ceiling, https://www.cbsnews.com/video/reaching-above-the-ceiling/, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  15. "Neuroscientist Kafui Dzirasa Honored at White House" (in en). https://today.duke.edu/2016/05/pecase. 
  16. Dzirasa, Kafui (in en). Characterizing sensorimotor gaiting dysfunction in mouse models of schizophrenia. http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R21-MH099479-02. 
  17. "Kafui Dzirasa". https://www.tedmed.com/speakers/show?id=619740. 
  18. TEDMED (2017-09-05), What if mental illness could be treated with electrical engineering?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwrIcYwgUew, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  19. "Kafui Dzirasa" (in en). https://www.aspenideas.org/speaker/kafui-dzirasa. 
  20. "Aspen Lecture: Transforming Mental Illness through Technology" (in en). https://www.aspenideas.org/session/aspen-lecture-transforming-mental-illness-through-technology. 
  21. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (2014-05-14), Dr. Dzirasa - What types of diagnostic tests are available for schizophrenia?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nzEO7LvpXQ, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  22. One Mind (2013-10-30), The Next Generation of Neuropsychiatric Diagnostics & Therapeutics: Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zvqj65Yt90, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  23. National Academy of Medicine (2017-10-20), 2017 NAM Annual Meeting: The Neurocircuitry of Vulnerability and Resilience, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRcvDwAyy6U, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  24. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (2014-01-27), Next Generation Neuropsychiatric Diagnostics and Therapeutics, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyvkZnn8bqE, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  25. "Dr. Kaf Dzirasa" (in en-US). https://aspenbrainlab.com/speakers-2017/dr-kaf-dzirasa. 
  26. Duke University School of Medicine (2017-02-13), Dr. Kafui Dzirasa: A Black Man in a White Coat, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-h2gKUUQWk, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  27. says, Shelly (2017-08-15). "NIH Family Members Giving Back: Kafui Dzirasa" (in en-US). https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2017/08/15/nih-family-members-giving-back-kafui-dzirasa/. 
  28. "National Academy of Medicine Elects 100 New Members" (in en-US). 2021-10-18. https://nam.edu/national-academy-of-medicine-elects-100-new-members-2021/. 
  29. "2019-2020 Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellows: Human Augmentation" (in en). https://www.aaas.org/programs/center-public-engagement-science-and-technology/2019-2020-leshner-leadership-institute. 
  30. "Dr. Kafui Dzirasa Discusses the Next Big Idea in Brain Research" (in en). https://today.duke.edu/2016/10/dr-kafui-dzirasa-discusses-next-big-idea-brain-research. 
  31. Duke University (2016-10-18), Duke Psychiatrist and Neuroscientist Discusses the Next Big Idea in Brain Research, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hp4GHqF7ro, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  32. "- Partnering for Cures" (in en-US). http://www.partneringforcures.org/past-meetings/2016/speakers/view/25126. 
  33. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (2013-10-28), Kafui Dzirasa, M.D., Ph.D. - 2013 Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prizewinner for Schizophrenia Research, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK8OhChQlLI, retrieved 2019-02-18 
  34. "About Kafui – i Live For" (in en-US). http://storiesbreakstigma.org/about-kafui/. 
  35. "UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars Program". https://www.umbc.edu/Programs/Meyerhoff/program_history.html. 
  36. Company, Johnson Publishing (2008) (in en). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=PdMDAAAAMBAJ&q=kafui+dzirasa+phd+2007&pg=PA134.