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I am of Mexican descent and was born and raised in Los Angeles. After completing high school, I moved to Northern California to attend San Francisco State University where I majored in Psychology with a specific focus in Cognitive Neuroscience and Physiological Psychology. I am currently a doctoral student investigating the biological substrates of memory using a combination of electrophysiology, optogenetics, and behavioral assays. Outside of the lab I enjoy camping, hikes, live music, and trying new foods.
In the rat, spatial working memory has been shown to rely on the functional integrity and connectivity of the hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, it remains to be determined how task-relevant information is organized within this circuit to guide spatial working memory. In the rat, direct connections between the hippocampus and mPFC are restricted to a monosynaptic projection extending from the ventral portion of hippocampus to mPFC. However, the nucleus reuniens (RE) of ventral-midline thalamus has been shown to share afferents and efferents with both hippocampus and mPFC. Recent work from our lab using in vivo recordings of RE in the awake, behaving rat has shown that disruption of RE activity not only impairs spatial working memory performance, but concomitantly disrupts hippocampal-mPFC synchrony and the direction of information flow within the hippocampal-mPFC circuit. Thus, RE could play a role in coordinating hippocampal-mPFC interactions during spatial working memory. To that end, I use in vivo electrophysiology to record the electrical activity of individual neurons, as well as populations of neurons, within RE and within the hippocampal-mPFC circuit. Furthermore, this technique is combined with optogenetics, allowing us the ability to selectively inhibit, activate, or modulate the activity of neurons in distinct regions or pathways within this tri-regional circuit. The aim of this combinatorial approach is to tease apart and identify unique contributions to spatial working memory within this circuit. Ultimately, understanding the dynamic interplay within this circuit will better contribute to developing suitable interventions that can properly address the anomalous neural activity implicated in psychopathologies such as schizophrenia, ADHD, and Alzheimers disease.
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