Dr. Richard Wurtman

Renowned MIT Professor and Groundbreaking Researcher

Professor emeritus of neuroscience at MIT, recognized for groundbreaking research on sleep, mood, and cognitive health.

Dr. Richard Wurtman

A professor emeritus of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Dr. Richard Wurtman is widely recognized for his groundbreaking research on neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system.

His 40-year body of work has focused on studying how various nutrients affect the neurotransmitters that influence appetite, sleep, mood, behavior, and cognitive health, and then using those findings to develop products that improve quality of life. For example, Dr. Wurtman is credited for discovering that—

  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep.
  • Eating carbohydrates causes an increase in the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
  • Giving choline, tyrosine, or glutamine can increase the level of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamine, and GABA in the brain and affect behavior.
  • Increasing the levels of DHA, choline, and uridine in the brain can enhance the formation of synapses, the neural structures required for thinking.

One of the most well-known products to come out of his lab is the prescription drug Sarafem, which is used to address the mood and physical symptoms that occur during the menstrual cycle.

Dr. Wurtman is the author and editor of 18 books, holds more than 50 patents, and author or coauthor of 1,050 scientific papers.

In the News: TV, Print, Media

Dr. Wurtman's media appearances include CBS, CNN, MSN, and he has been quoted in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and many other print publications.

Unparalleled Credentials

After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Wurtman trained at Massachusetts General Hospital before joining the National Institutes of Health (NIH) lab run by Nobel Prize winner Julius Axelrod. In 1967, MIT invited him to start a neurochemistry and neuropharmacology program (later called the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences), and in the 1980s he began his 20-year tenure as director of MIT’s NIH Clinical Research Center.

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