I received my B.A in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and my MA & Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. My doctoral training was undertaken under the supervision of Professors Mark Rosenzweig (Psychology) and Edward Bennett (Biochemistry). This allowed me to pursue multidisciplinary approach to investigate the neural mechanisms of memory. After completing my graduate training, I was awarded a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellowshi and pursued training in the Neuroscience Department of Northwestern University. At the end of my tenure at Northwestern University I moved to a research faculty position in at SUNY-Downstate Medical Center where I investigated the role of Protein Kinase Mζ in learning and memory. Here, I continued my research training under the guidance of Todd Sacktor. In 2009, I started my own lab at Hunter College, Department of Psychology. Here, I continue my work uncovering the neural mechanisms that underlie learning and memory through a variety of techniques and model systems.
EDUCATION & POSITIONS
Synaptic plasticity and Cognition
University of California, Los Angeles
Bachelor of Arts,1986
Stress effects on cognition: Mechanisms
University of California, Berkeley
Drug abuse effects on cogntion: Methamphetamine induced deficits
Neuroinflammation and cognition
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Research Faculty, 1997-2008
My research interest is to understand the signal transduction mechanisms involved when stress significantly alters the morphology of dendritic spines affecting synaptic plasticity, learning and memory. It is understood that depending on the stress, the effect on memory and learning can be enhanced or impaired. My lab is specifically interested in how stress can regulate the expression of various synaptically localized proteins that are important for memory, such as protein kinase M zeta (PKMζ). I incorporate various model systems involving inflammation, neurodegenerative disorders, drugs abuse, traumatic brain injury, HIV, and stress. These models collectively provide brain insults to better understand neural mechanisms associated with memory deficits and remediation by environmental enrichment. We use animal models to assess behavioral parameters on memory and learning. We use several different molecular and imaging techniques to asses changes in protein expression and spine shape morphology and evaluate synaptic strength using electrophysiology involving long-term potentiation. My lab has several different projects, which provide a unique perspective on the interaction between several brain regions including the hippocampus, amygdala and frontal cortex as they relate to stress, traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease.
At Hunter College, I began my current tenure-track faculty position. With a Department of Defense funded grant in hand, I began studying the role of PKMζ in stress-induced memory deficits. The role of stress and its effects on memory are significant yet poorly understood. As I applied my training in hippocampal function to characterize stress-induced changes in behavior, biochemistry and electrophysiological measurements additional projects and techniques were also developed in my lab. Some of the methods that I subsequently began incorporating into my work included spine-morphology analysis, behavioral protocols involving environmental enrichment, and stress-induced behavioral protocols including social defeat stress (in collaboration with Dr. Iñiguez; University of Texas at El Paso) and brain insults including traumatic brain injury (TBI). I have also expanded my research program to examine how stress-induced inflammation influences memory performance in models of drug addiction and neurodegenerative diseases.