Stephanie Leal

Stephanie Leal

Assistant Professor

Office: 2802 LSB


Dr. Stephanie Leal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology and the Department of Psychology at UCLA, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Rice University, and Director of the Neuroscience of Memory, Mood, & Aging Laboratory. She received her B.S. in Biopsychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2011 and her Ph.D. in Psychological & Brain Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 2016 working in the lab of Dr. Michael Yassa. She completed an NIH-funded NRSA postdoctoral fellowship from 2016-2019 at the University of California, Berkeley with Dr. William Jagust. Dr. Leal started her laboratory at Rice University in 2019 and recently joined the faculty at UCLA in 2024.

Research Interests

Dr. Leal's research interests focus on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying episodic memory processing, emotional modulation of memory, and how these mechanisms are altered in aging and disease states. She develops and utilizes sensitive cognitive tasks, advanced neuroimaging techniques, and translates these methods to states of cognitive impairment. Her overarching goal is to understand the factors that modulate episodic memory processing in order to restore the system to normal function in disorders of mood and memory.


2011 - 2016, Ph.D., Psychological & Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
2011 - 2013, M.A., Psychological & Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
2007 - 2011, B.S., Biopsychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA

Selected Publications

Phillips, T.*, Castro, M.**, Vas, R.*, Ferguson, L. A.**, Harikumar, A., & Leal, S. L. (2023). Perceived antidepressant efficacy associated with reduced negative and enhanced neutral mnemonic discrimination. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 17:1225836.

Ferguson, L.A.** & Leal, S.L. (2022). Interactions of Emotion and Memory in the Aging Brain: Neural and Psychological Correlates. Curr Behav Neurosci Rep. 9, 47-57.

Leal. S.L., Landau, S.M., Bell, R.K., & Jagust, W.J. (2017). Hippocampal activation is associated with longitudinal amyloid accumulation and cognitive decline. eLife, 6:e22978.

Leal, S.L. & Yassa, M.Y. (2018). Integrating new findings and examining clinical applications of pattern separation. Nature Neuroscience, 21(2):163-173.

Leal, S.L., Tighe, S.K., Jones, Craig K., Yassa, M.A. (2014). Pattern separation of emotional information in hippocampal dentate/CA3. Hippocampus. 24: 1146-1155.