Nancy C. Andreasen’s world view completely changed when she nearly died from complications of childbirth. She was clinging on to life due to a postpartum infection, the kind that killed so many women throughout history before the development of antibiotics.
“As I recovered, I realized I had been given back my life, and that caused me to rethink everything in it,” she told The New York Times, quitting her job to to pursue, and ultimately make significant advancements in, the field of neuroscience.
Neuroscience wasn’t the obvious path for Andreasen. She started her career focused on literature earning a Ph.D. in English literature, with specialization in Renaissance literature. She authored the book “John Donne: Conservative Revolutionary,” and worked as an English professor for five years before she entered medical school to become a neuroscientist.
Andreasen’s research includes the study of history and neural mechanisms of schizophrenia, neuroimaging, genomics, creativity and spirituality. Andreasen is credited with the first quantitative Magnetic Resonance analysis of schizophrenia, and advancing the study of mental illness by evaluating its relationship to cognition, environmental factors and creativity. She was also the first to combine genomic research with neuroimaging techniques.
By Christine Ayala