Marcia Hillary Ratner, PhD, DABT

Assistant Professor, Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics

Marcia Ratner
72 E. Concord St Instructional (L)


Dr. Ratner is a Board-Certified Toxicologist and Behavioral Neuroscientist. She earned her doctoral degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from the Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine where she trained in the Department of Neurology under the supervision of Drs. Robert G. Feldman, MD and Raymon Durso, MD. During her doctoral training, she was an active member of the Environmental and Occupational Neurology Program where she gained her expertise in neurotoxicology. Dr. Ratner’s dissertation research which revealed a younger age at onset of sporadic Parkinson’s disease among subjects occupationally exposed to metals such as manganese and pesticides has been replicated by other investigators demonstrating the enduring importance as well as the rigor and reproducibility of her research (see Ratner et al., 2015 and Gamache et al., 2019). Dr. Ratner subsequently completed a three-year National Institute on Aging funded Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Biochemistry of Aging under the supervision of Dr. David H. Farb, here in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Biophysics. Her postdoctoral training has provided Dr. Ratner with the additional expertise necessary to use preclinical animal models combined with in vivo electrophysiological techniques to effectively investigate how chemical exposures modulate neural network activity in vivo.

Her training at the bench and bedside has provided Dr. Ratner with genuine translational research experience in clinical as well as preclinical neuroscience and neurotoxicology. This unique combination of experience enables Dr. Ratner to effectively evaluate how chemicals modify neurological function and the progression of neurodegenerative disease in humans and animal models.

Dr. Ratner’s research currently focuses on clinical and preclinical investigations of how chemicals alter neurological function in healthy subjects and those with neuropsychiatric and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. She and her clinical colleagues are currently investigating the use of serum exosomal alpha synuclein levels as a biomarker for differentiating young onset Parkinson’s disease from parkinsonism in welders exposed to manganese (see Rutchik and Ratner, 2019). Her preclinical research employs basic behavioral and in vivo electrophysiological techniques to investigate how chemicals modify hippocampal neural network activity and disease progression in animal models of age-related amnestic mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The major advantages of in vivo electrophysiology over noninvasive measures of neurological function such as surface electroencephalogram and functional imaging studies of regional cerebral blood flow is found in the ability of this powerful technology to differentiate the activity of inhibitory interneurons from that of excitatory pyramidal cells both across brain regions and within subregions. This highly translational approach is well suited for target-based as well as repurposing studies of drug-induced changes in both single unit activity and local field potentials. Dr. Ratner’s paper looking at the effects of co-administration of low doses of the FDA approved anti-epileptic drugs levetiracetam and valproic acid demonstrates that these compounds improve aspects of place cell firing dynamics including increasing spatial information content in aged rats (Hippocampus, 2015). The observations of Dr. Ratner and her colleagues suggest that the specificity with which, not just the rate at which, a neuron fires plays an important role in learning and memory function and, that interventions designed to increase the specificity with which hippocampal pyramidal cells fire may improve memory function in subjects with age-related amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). She and her colleagues have also demonstrated that pharmacologically decreasing tonic inhibition in wild type rats increases place cell firing rates without abolishing place cell remapping while at the same time increasing the amplitude of sharp wave ripples implicated in memory consolidation. The observed augmentation of ripple amplitude in wild type rats is not seen in TgF344-AD rats implicating disrupted tonic inhibition in the early stages of AD (Heliyon, 2021). Her work has played a key role in promoting and advancing the use of in vivo electrophysiology as an applied science in preclinical neurotoxicology research (Frontiers in Toxicology, 2022).

Dr. Ratner is an active member of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American Academy of Neurology, American Psychological Association and the Society of Toxicology. Dr. Ratner is a Review Editor for the journal Frontiers in Toxicology and, she serves as an ad hoc peer reviewer for several other professional medical and scientific journals including: Neurology, Toxicology, Clinical Toxicology, Food and Chemical Toxicology, and BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology. Dr. Ratner has also served as a scientific advisor, on the role of occupational exposures to chemicals in Parkinson’s disease, to the Workplace Safety Insurance Board of Ontario, Canada. In addition, she regularly serves as an ad hoc advisor to the pharmaceutical and legal services industries.

Dr. Ratner has expertise and training in the following areas:

Toxicology (Board Certified in Toxicology)
Stereotactic Brain Surgery (Rodents)
In vivo Electrophysiology and EEG
Preclinical Animal Models of Behavior
Clinical Neurological Assessment
Human Neuropsychological Assessment

Other Positions

  • Research Compliance Manager, Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics, Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences


  • Boston University School of Medicine, PhD
  • Boston University, BA

Classes Taught

  • GMS BN 775
  • GMS BN 778


  • Published on 6/1/2023

    Ratner MH, Farb DF. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Pharmacology of Memory Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). 2023; 385(S3 70).

    Read at: Custom
  • Published on 9/24/2022

    Ratner MH, Rutchik J. Neurofilament Light Chain and Mercury Amalgam Fillings in Monozygotic Twins Discordant for Multiple Sclerosis Case Report. Neuroimmunology Reports. 2022.

    Read at: Custom
  • Published on 6/20/2022

    Rutchik J, Ratner MH. Clinical Evaluation and Differential Diagnosis of Neurotoxic Disease. In, Editor(s): Roberto G. Lucchini, Michael Aschner, Lucio G. Costa, Advances in Neurotoxicology, Chapter 7 Occupational Neurotoxicology, Academic Press,. Academic Press. 2022; 7:47-75.

    Read at: Custom
  • Published on 6/9/2022

    Rutchik J, Ratner MH. Diagnosis and Management of Occupational and Environmental Carbon Monoxide Neurotoxicity. In, Editor(s): Roberto G. Lucchini, Michael Aschner, Lucio G. Costa, Advances in Neurotoxicology, Chapter 7 Occupational Neurotoxicology, Academic Press,. Academic Press. 2022; 257-282.

    Read at: Custom
  • Published on 5/1/2022

    Ratner M, Downing S, Guo O, Odamah KA, Stewart T, Kumaresan V, Xia W, Farb D. Role of Pharmacological Modulation of Tonic Inhibition in Hippocampal Sharp Wave Ripples Amplitude and Place Cell Firing Dynamics. FASEB J. 2022 May; 36 Suppl 1. PMID: 35552906.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/25/2022

    Ratner MH, Farb DH. Probing the Neural Circuitry Targets of Neurotoxicants In Vivo Through High Density Silicon Probe Brain Implants. Front Toxicol. 2022; 4:836427. PMID: 35548683.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/1/2021

    Tipton AE, George J, Ratner M, Farb D, Russek S. Data from single nuclei RNA-sequencing reveals a prodromal gene network response in excitatory neurons of a humanized rat Alzheimer's disease model. Alzheimers Dement. 2021 Dec; 17 Suppl 2:e058589. PMID: 34971150.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/1/2021

    Ratner MH, Downing SS, Guo O, Odamah KE, Stewart TM, Kumaresan V, Robitsek RJ, Xia W, Farb DH. Prodromal dysfunction of a5GABA-A receptor modulated hippocampal ripples occurs prior to neurodegeneration in the TgF344-AD rat model of Alzheimer's disease. Heliyon. 2021 Sep; 7(9):e07895. PMID: 34568591.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/22/2021

    Rutchik J, Bowler RM, Ratner MH. A rare case of Holmes tremor in a worker with occupational carbon monoxide poisoning. Am J Ind Med. 2021 05; 64(5):435-449. PMID: 33616228.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 5/28/2020

    Ratner MH, Ewing WM, Rutchik JS. . Neurological Effects of Chronic Occupational Exposure to Alcohol Mists and Vapors in a Machinist. Toxicology Communications. 2020; 1(4):43-48.

    Read at: Custom

View 29 more publications: View full profile at BUMC

View all profiles