Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Legacy Series: Michael Kraut, M.D., Ph.D.

Michael Kraut, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Radiology
Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
The University of Texas at Dallas


Dr. Michael Kraut received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Southern California, followed by M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His doctoral research was carried out in Dr. Herbert Vaughan's and Dr. Joseph Arezzo's laboratory in the Rose F. Kennedy Center. After graduation and a residency in diagnostic radiology at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, he completed a fellowship in neuroradiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he has remained on the faculty. Today, Mike is a neuroradiologist and head of the Neuroimaging core of the IDDRC at Johns Hopkins (The Kennedy-Krieger Institute). His ties to Einstein continue, however, as he currently serves as a member of its Alumni Board of Governors.

Mike’s clinical interests span the field of neuroradiology and take their origins from his training at the Rose F. Kennedy Center. His main research focus is in functional neuroimaging, especially as a tool to investigate cognitive operations related to semantic memory. A special interest, reflecting his background in neurophysiology developed while a doctoral student with Herb Vaughan and Joe Arezzo, is the use of functional imaging techniques in concert with electrophysiologic measures in order to elucidate the temporal sequence and spatial distribution of neural activation. As a faculty member at Johns Hopkins today, Mike feels he is in the position to "give back" to academic medicine broadly defined, both at his home institution and elsewhere.


Q: What was your experience here in the Kennedy Center like as a graduate student?
A: In short, that time period was one of the best in my life. It was a time of great intellectual growth, and a time during which I developed friendships with many talented students and faculty members.


Q: Are there one or two individuals who were/are in the Kennedy Center who really stood out in their influence over your career?
A: Besides Herb Vaughan and Joe Arezzo, Steve Walkley for sure. I still remember well the human neuroanatomy small group graduate student tutorial Steve led. Also, Dominick Purpura. The depth and breadth of his understanding of neuroscience as well as of his broader knowledge were breath-taking. From the point of view of a student, he was almost more of a force of nature than a faculty member or even a Dean.


Q: Were there components of the Kennedy Center program or environment that had particular influence on your career path?
A: Not as regards Neuroradiology per se. Frankly, getting interested in Neuroradiology stemmed from a brief conversation I had with a fellow M.D./Ph.D. student (Norm Relkin, who’s now become quite renown in his own right) outside one of the Low apartment buildings. All the time I was in training in Radiology and in Neuroradiology, though, and even when I started doing research using PET and then functional MRI, my thought was to get back to using electrophysiological tools in my research. I was convinced and remain so that since the brain transacts much of its business electrically, it should be studied using electrical (or magnetic) probes. Herb Vaughan and Joe Arezzo taught me how to think about electroencephalographic and underlying electrophysiological phenomena critically and carefully. Both of them were outstanding teachers and mentors.


Q: What influenced you the most in terms of staying connected to the intellectual and developmental disabilities field?
A: Truth be told, I sort of fell back into the IDD area by happenstance. Early in my time here at Hopkins, my then-boss, Dr. Nick Bryan, had me start to accompany him to meetings related to what was then called the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (MRDDRC, now called the IDDRC). At the time, the Center was shifting its neuroimaging focus from positron emission tomography (PET) to MRI and specifically towards the then-emerging field of functional MRI (fMRI). fMRI had been first reported in the literature in 1992, I think, and by the end of that year I had done the first rudimentary fMRI experiments at Hopkins. Nick Bryan wanted to advance me as the nexus between the MRDDRC and MRI/fMRI. One thing led to another, and that nexus is now firmly established. Other more accomplished and talented people have deepened and extended the role of MRI tools in the IDDRC, but I still keep my hand in.


Q: From all your experiences here at Einstein and the Kennedy Center, what do you think was the greatest influence/contribution toward your current position?
A: I think that the overall intellectual environment at AECOM contributed most. It was a place of great collegiality, and a place where there were remarkably few intellectual “silos” to inhibit cross-disciplinary interactions. More times than I can count, I would encounter Dr. Purpura, who was Dean at the time, or Mike Bennett (Chair of the Department of Neuroscience back then) walking through one of the halls, and we would end up having a conversation about some topic or another that almost invariably made me think differently about that topic. And even though my focus was on identification of intracortical sources of brain electrical activity, I could always count on informative conversations with a broad sampling of smart people, or seminars on a wide variety of diverse topics, practically every day. I’ve been back to visit Einstein only a couple of times since I left back in 1986, but during each visit I still feel at least a little bit of what I recall feeling as a student.

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