Dr. Alice Flaherty is a joint associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Her practice is at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She did an AB, MD, internship, residency, and fellowship at Harvard, a career path known locally as Preparation H. In an attempt at diversity, she did a PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Psychiatry, one mile away. Her PhD work, with Ann Graybiel, used primate electrophysiology to study ways in which the brain, specifically the basal ganglia, represents the body. Her role at MGH, as the director of the movement disorders fellowship and co-director of its deep brain stimulator unit, led to a focus on brain systems that control human drives, whether to walk, to communicate, or to create, and how these are influenced by interventions ranging from drugs to deep brain stimulation to phototherapy.
In addition to scientific papers, she is the author of The MGH Handbook of Neurology (a textbook), The Midnight Disease (a book for general audiences on the brain’s role in writer’s block and creativity), and The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster (a children’s book about picky eating). Each of her books has received national awards and had multiple translations. Two have been dramatized. She is known as an advocate for the abilities of the mentally ill, and has had many television appearances, both nationally and internationally.
Her current book project studies the ways in which brain function and environment interact to create illness behaviors such as hysteria and stoicism. Empathy and dispassion are second-order illness behaviors, and subject to similar neural and environmental factors. For this work she has been awarded a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, it was the focus of a multidisciplinary David Rockefeller Winter Institute, and a documentary film, Bedside Manner, directed by Corinne Botz.