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Robert Maurice Sapolsky (born 1957) is an American neuroendocrinologist, professor of biology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery at Stanford University, researcher and author. He is currently Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and, by courtesy, Neurosurgery, at Stanford University. In addition, he is a Research Associate at the National Museums of Kenya.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Sapolsky was born in Brooklyn, New York to immigrants from the Soviet Union.

In 1978, Sapolsky received his B.A. in biological anthropology summa cum laude from Harvard University.[2] He then went to Kenya to study the social behaviors of baboons in the wild; after which he returned to New York; studying at Rockefeller University, where he received his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology working in the lab of Bruce McEwen, a world-renowned endocrinologist.

Following Sapolsky's initial year-and-a-half field study in Africa, he returned every summer for another twenty-five years to observe the same group of baboons, from the late 70s to the early 90s. He spent 8 to 10 hours a day for approximately four months each year recording the behaviors of these primates.[3]


Sapolsky is currently the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor at Stanford University, holding joint appointments in several departments, including Biological Sciences, Neurology & Neurological Sciences, and Neurosurgery.[4]

A neuroendocrinologist, he has focused his research on issues of stress and neuronal degeneration, as well as on the possibilities of gene therapy strategies for protecting susceptible neurons from disease. Currently, he is working on gene transfer techniques to strengthen neurons against the disabling effects of glucocorticoids. Each year Sapolsky spends time in Kenya studying a population of wild baboons in order to identify the sources of stress in their environment, and the relationship between personality and patterns of stress-related disease in these animals. More specifically, Sapolsky studies the cortisol levels between the alpha male and female and the subordinates to determine stress level. An early but still relevant example of his studies of olive baboons is to be found in his 1990 Scientific American article, "Stress in the Wild".[5]

Sapolsky has also written about neurological impairment and the insanity defense within the American legal system.[6][7]


Sapolsky has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship grant in 1987,[8] an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and the Klingenstein Fellowship in Neuroscience. He was also awarded the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award and the Young Investigator of the Year Awards from the Society for Neuroscience, the International Society for Psychoneuro-Endocrinology, and the Biological Psychiatry Society.

In 2007 he received the John P. McGovern Award for Behavioral Science, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[9]

See alsoEdit

Selected works Edit


Journal articlesEdit

  • Sapolsky, Robert (January 1990). Stress in The Wild. Scientific American 262 (1): 106–113.
  • Sapolsky, Robert, Lewis C. Krey, and Bruce S. McEwen (25 September 2000). The Neuroendocrinology of Stress and Aging: The Glucocorticoid Cascade Hypothesis. Science of Aging Knowledge Environment 38: 21.
  • Sapolsky, Robert, L. Michael Romero and Allan U. Munck (2000). How Do Glucocorticoids Influence Stress Responses? Integrating Permissive, Suppressive, Stimulatory, and Preparative Actions. Endocrine Reviews 21 (1): 55–89.
  • Sapolsky, Robert, Rodrigues SM. (2009). Disruption of Fear Memory through Dual-Hormone Gene Therapy. Biol Psychiatry 65 (5): 441–4.
  • Sapolsky, Robert, Mitra R. (2009). Effects of enrichment predominate over those of chronic stress on fear-related behavior in male rats. Stress 12 (4): 305–12.
  • Sapolsky, Robert, Cheng MY., Sun G., Jin M., Zhao H. and Steinberg GK. (2009). Blocking glucocorticoid and enhancing estrogenic genomic signaling protects against cerebral ischemia. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 29 (1): 130–6.



  1. Robert Sapolsky. URL accessed on 22 FEB 2009.
  2. About Robert Sapolsky: advancing our understanding of stress for decades. Stanford University. URL accessed on 20 August 2011.
  3. Transcript of How I Write Conversation with Robert Sapolsky. Stanford University. URL accessed on 20 August 2011.
  4. Stanford Univ. detail of Prof. Sapolsky. URL accessed on 2007-07-27.
  5. Sapolsky, Robert M. (1990). "Stress in the Wild". Scientific American, 262. 106–113
  6. "The Brain on the Stand," New York Times Magazine
  7. The frontal cortex and the criminal justice system.
  8. MacArthur Fellows List - July 1987. URL accessed on 2008-03-24.
  9. About AAAS: John McGovern Lecture. URL accessed on 22 FEB 2009.
  10. includeonly>Robert Sapolsky. "Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science", 'The Teaching Company'. Retrieved on 2012-04-20.
  11. includeonly>Robert Sapolsky. "Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd edition", 'The Teaching Company'. Retrieved on 2010-11-10.
  12. includeonly>Robert Sapolsky. "Stress and Your Body", 'The Teaching Company'. Retrieved on 2011-05-29.

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