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B.S. (Biology) University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus.
PhD (Anatomy) University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus
Postdoctoral Fellow, Cornell University Dept. of Neurobiology and Behavior
Associate Professor Dept. of Anatomy and Neurobiology/ Institute of Neurobiology Univ. of Puerto Rico School of Medicine
1) The effects of that neural chemicals known as neurotransmitters or neuropeptides can have on basic mechanisms that occur in our central nervous system is well documented and is known to be very significant. The consumption of known natural or artificial psychostimulants, such as caffeine, by animals or humans can have a significant impact on the short and long-term performance of cognitive and/or motor skills. These results support the stimulant effects of caffeine onto adenosine receptors located within the spinal network controlling walking, acting mostly through the inhibition of A1 adenosine receptors. We want to understand the cellular mechanisms by which adenosine receptor antagonists and agonist modulates the firing properties of the spinal CPG network for locomotion since adenosine receptors have been related to the reduction of inflammation and neuroprotection after a spinal cord injury.
2) Trunk motor control is crucial after a spinal cord injury (SCI) for both animals and humans. Several rehabilitative strategies are aimed at enhancing trunk stabilization and postural control after an SCI. It has been recently shown that SCI rats that can still support weight show increased compression and stiffening of the trunk as a compensating mechanism to improve overall motor activity patterns during standing and walking. Additionally, effective robot rehabilitation training on adult rats spinally transected as neonates has shown significant reorganization of the trunk motor cortex to be induced and a partial reversal of some plastic changes that may be adaptive in non-stepping paraplegia after SCI. Trunk stabilization has also been proven to be essential for numerous wheel chair activities and for postural control and propulsion during assisted locomotion in human SCI patients. Thus the study of the thoracic neural network involved in trunk stabilization and postural control will refine current therapeutic strategies for treating SCI patients by including the reacquisition of trunk-related motor activity as part of the rehabilitation process.
3) These studies expose students from underrepresented groups in science (including hispanics and women) to advanced instrumentation and experimental techniques. Furthering the scientific career of underrepresented groups in science is of high priority in our research laboratory and aligned to the programmatic mission of federal organizations such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
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