Ann Martin Graybiel was born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts in 1942. Her father, Ashton Graybiel, was a prominent medical doctor and researcher who investigated the effects of weightlessness and acceleration in astronauts and helped to prepare them for space motion sickness.
Professor Graybiel received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1964, majoring in biology and chemistry, and an M.A. in biology from Tufts University in 1966 thanks to the support of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. She then began studying for a PhD in psychology and brain science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, supervised by the late Hans Lukas Teuber, and the late Walle Nauta. She was awarded a PhD in 1971, and just two years later became a member of MIT faculty. By this time, she was already questioning the role of a poorly-understood area of the mid-brain known as the striatum. Over the next 40 years, she was to develop methodologies and animal models that would allow her to map and define the neuronal circuits of the striatum and how these connect with other parts of the brain to influence behavior, particularly during the formation of habits. Her work is recognized as providing fundamental new insights not only into normal brain function, but also some of the abnormalities that underlie disorders such as Huntingdon's chorea, Parkinson's disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and drug addiction.
In 1994, she was named Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and in 2001 was promoted to Investigator at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research. In the same year, Professor Graybiel went to the White House to receive the nation's highest science award, the National Medal of Science, and she was the only female among 14 recipients. Further honors followed: in 2004, the Parkinson's Disease Foundation gave Professor Graybiel the Woman Leader of Parkinson's Science award, and in 2006, the National Parkinson Foundation bestowed upon her the title of Harold S. Diamond Professor in recognition of her achievements.
MIT then awarded Professor Graybiel its highest honor for a faculty member, naming her Institute Professor in 2008. This permitted freedom to pursue her research interests without any departmental administration or teaching obligations.
Congratulating Professor Graybiel, MIT President Susan Hockfield said, "Professor Graybiel's research has contributed profoundly to our understanding of the functional anatomy and physiology of the brain, particularly the brain regions involved in the control of movement. Her work has provided new insights to the neurobiological basis of a range of disorders, from Parkinson's disease to major depression."
Graybiel is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.