Born in Argentina, Roberto Cabeza comes from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, USA, where he held a professorship in psychology and neuroscience and led the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. In Berlin, the internationally renowned scientist joins the newly created professorship for Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging and Memory, which emerged from a collaborative initiative of the Institute of Psychology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin. The professorship is intended to strengthen neuroscience research in Berlin and expand international collaborations.
Please close your eyes and think about your research project. What do you see at first?
I imagine the memory of an event being simultaneously stored in multiple brain regions and these regions interacting with each other while the event is stored and later, when it is remembered.
Then, I imagine the specific mechanism we are currently investigating.
How would you explain your research to a child?
I study how the brain remembers and how this changes when we get old.
What is it that surprises people when you tell them about your research?
People are sometimes amazed that we can detect in the brain the traces of individual memories.
With whom would you like to swap your workplace for one day? What would you do?
I think I would enjoy being a National Geographic photographer taking photos of people and nature in a remote place of the world.
Is there any rather unusual hobby or talent you might want to share with us?
Many years ago I used to be semi-professional clarinet player but my current hobby is street
What did your research teach you about life?
Something I have learnt from research is that achieving goals takes a long time and one must be
extremely patient and persistent. This is a great lesson for life.
What would your job be, if not a scientist?
I tend to solve problems like an engineer and I enjoy visual arts, so I think architecture would be a good alternative profession for me.
Is there any particular object that follows you through work and/or life?
Recently, I always carry my camera.
Which place in Berlin do you like the most, and why?
I like Prenzlauer Berg/Mitte because of the restaurants, cafés, beautiful buildings, and cultural events.
I also enjoy doing street photography in Kreuzberg and Neukölln.
Is there anything about Berlin that you didn’t expect at all? And/or something that you miss here? What makes Berlin special for your research?
I was surprised by the number of top-notch scientists working in areas related my research, including memory representations and networks and cognitive neuroscience of aging.