Welcome to CienciaPR, an expert and resource network for all who are interested in science and Puerto Rico.
I have been in Puerto Rico for 10 years, at the Ponce School of Medicine, Dept of Physiology. I have recently moved to UPR-Ciencias Medicas, Dept. of Psychiatry. I am originally from Connecticut, did my undergrad training at Northwestern Univ. and my PhD at SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn. After starting the first neuroscience laboratory in Honduras at the National Medical School (with a Fulbright grant), I returned to New York for to do a post-doc at NYU studying fear learning with Joseph LeDoux. I then came to Ponce in 1997 to start my own lab. My lab has grown quickly due to the excellent students who have committed themselves to this work. I have a strong interest in developing first class science in developing countries. I believe that science must engage more of the world countries and cultures, if we are going to solve the big mysteries of the brain. Thanks to the internet, and websites like CienciasPR, the traditional barriers are finally falling. Puerto Rico has a bright future in Neuroscience, especially Cognitive Neuroscience!
Our group studies how the brain overcomes fear, by focusing on extinction of Pavlovian fear conditioning. In fear extinction, an individual learns that a stimulus that once predicted danger no longer does. This simple form of learning generates a memory of safety that competes with memories of fear to control behavior. It is thought that deficits in extinction learning underlie anxiety disorders (such as phobias and PTSD) as well as addictions. We use a number of techniques in systems neuroscience to study the neural mechanisms of extinction, including: lesions, microinfusion, multichannel unit recording, brain stimulation, and immunocytochemistry. In collaboration with other groups (some in PR), we have employed patch clamp recording, cDNA microarrays, computational modeling, and human brain imaging. We have identified structures in the prefrontal cortex that inhibit the output of the amygdala, thereby reducing expression of fear memories following extinction. We are currently studying the cellular and molecular mechanism of prefrontal plasticity in extinction, with the long-term goal of facilitating extinction for clinical benefit. Our work is funded by the NIMH and NIGMS.
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