Peggy Mason

Bio: Peggy Mason grew up in the Washington DC area and worked in taxidermy at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History under the direction of the late Dr Charles O Handley Jr. She went to college at Harvard, graduating with a degree in Biology in 1983. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard in 1987. After postdoctoral work at the University of California - San Francisco under the direction of Dr Howard Fields, she joined the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1992. Dr Mason is now Professor of Neurobiology. Dr Mason is committed to teaching neurobiology to anyone that will listen. She has taught medical students since her arrival at UChicago, with the exception of a 2 year hiatus during which she wrote a textbook, Medical Neurobiology (Oxford University Press, 2011). Dr Mason also teaches undergraduates both on the Chicago campus and in Paris! She is a sought after mentor. Dr Mason is now offering a massively open on-line course, Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life. It is not too late to join an enthusiastic group of NeuroMOOCers that number 41,000 and counting (https://www.coursera.org/course/neurobio). Dr Mason has won several awards for her teaching and mentoring. For more than 20 years, Dr Mason's research was focused on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation. In the last 5 years, she has turned her gaze to the biology of empathy and pro-social behavior. For a lively discussion of her empathic helping work, see her Reddit AMA at: http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/23o5w4/science_ama_series_hi_im_peggy_mason_i_study/

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  1. Hats off to your efforts in spreading the awareness about “the matter” through Neurobiology course on Coursera. It has rekindled my interest to pursue higher studies in the field. How can I be your mentee? I am a 49 year old behavioral change facilitator & a coach, with 27 years of work experience in diverse areas.


  2. Hi Peggy,

    Thanks for a quick response. What I like is your dexterity, be it technology or the science; you are au fait.
    Well, I am based out of Hyderabad, a metro in South India. I see that you grew up in DC. I have some very fond memories of my stay there, when I was based out of Bolling AFB in 2009 (especially the Cherry blossoms’ around this time, besides the visits to museums and monuments nearby).



  3. Hi Professor !! Nice to see you again !! Do you remember me? I’m Alessandro Balzerani, the “Italian biker” that frequented your amazing course in 2015. I’ve sent you a pic on Twitter … taken from my final project ““A motorbike day on track – neurobiology of the speed”. Cheers 🙂


  4. Dr. Mason,

    I am taking your class online. Thank you for putting so much effort into this class and for your sense of humor 🙂 I am really enjoying every video.


    • It’s such a good question. One definition of pain (this is from Howard Fields) is that it is an unpleasant perception that arises from a part or parts of the body and is commonly associated with tissue damage. By this definition itch would be pain. It’s unpleasant and comes from a part of the body. But we all have different words for pain and itch and that belies a deeper truth that they are distinct perceptions. Laboratory researchers working in non human animals define itch as something that elicits scratching and pain as something that elicits shaking biting ducking or guarding. [Think of a kid and how they react to an injury to picture this.]


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