Bernice Grafstein, Ph.D.

Professor of Physiology and Biophysics

  • Vincent and Brooke Astor Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience
  • Professor of Neuroscience (secondary appointment)


1300 York Avenue, Room D-417B
New York, NY 10065

Research Areas

Research Summary:

Dr. Bernice Grafstein received her B.A. in physiology at the University of Toronto and her Ph.D. in neurophysiology at McGill University in Montreal. As a graduate student she trained as an electrophysiologist, working on structure-function correlations in the cerebral cortex. Her thesis work was on the mechanism of cortical spreading depression, which appears as a wave of decreased electrical activity advancing slowly over the grey matter. This phenomenon has been recognized as playing an important role in migraine, stroke and other cortical pathology. Her contributions established the role of the extracellular movement of potassium ions in propagation of spreading depression, and her work has become a classic in its field, acknowledged even today. She subsequently became interested in nervous system development and regeneration, and is known for her work on intracellular transport of protein in normal and regenerating neurons, as well as other forms of molecular signaling among various cell types in the brain. She has been President of the Society for Neuroscience and is currently a Trustee and Vice-President of the Grass Foundation, which supports training and research in neuroscience. She is Co-Director of the Brain and Mind course for second-year medical students and teaches in a number of other Medical College and Graduate School courses.

Selected Publications:

  1. Grafstein, B.  Spreading depression as a holistic process: a historical perspective.  (video)  2014
  2. Grafstein B. Subverting the hegemony of the synapse: complicity of neurons, astrocytes, and vasculature in spreading depression and pathology of the cerebral cortex. Brain Res Rev. 2011 Jan 7;66(1-2):123-32. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2010.09.007. Epub 2010 Oct 1. Review. PubMed PMID: 20888859.
  3. Grafstein, B.  Bernice Grafstein.  Hist. Neurosci. Autobiog. 3: 246-282 (2001)
  4. McQuarrie IG, Grafstein B. Axon outgrowth enhanced by a previous nerve injury. Arch Neurol. 1973 Jul;29(1):53-5. PubMed PMID: 4711805.
  5. Grafstein B. Transneuronal transfer of radioactivity in the central nervous system. Science. 1971 Apr 9;172(3979):177-9. PubMed PMID: 5547733.
  6. McEwen BS, Grafstein B. Fast and slow components in axonal transport of protein. J Cell Biol. 1968 Sep;38(3):494-508. PubMed PMID: 5664220; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2108376.
  7. Grafstein B. Postnatal development of the transcallosal evoked response in the cerebral cortex of the cat. J Neurophysiol. 1963 Jan;26:79-99. PubMed PMID: 13949765.
  8. Grafstein B. Mechanism of spreading cortical depression. J Neurophysiol. 1956  Mar;19(2):154-71. PubMed PMID: 13295838.
  9. Burns BD, Grafstein B. The function and structure of some neurones in the cat’s cerebral cortex. J Physiol. 1952 Nov;118(3):412-33. PubMed PMID: 13000769;  PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1392497.