Background

Dr. Carmen Varela

The common thread through my research career has been the study of the function of thalamocortical circuits. I was introduced to the thalamus during my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of A Coruña, where I contributed to experiments aimed at understanding how cortical feedback regulates LGN neuron responses to visual stimuli. After internships at the University of Quilmes (Buenos Aires) and New York University, I joined the
laboratory of Dr. Murray Sherman. In the Sherman lab (University of Chicago) I demonstrated that cells in first and higher order thalamic nuclei are differentially affected by neuromodulators (acetylcholine, serotonin), suggesting the presence of complex, state-dependent functional circuits in higher order thalamocortical circuits.
During my postdoctoral work with Dr. Matt Wilson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I combined a wide range of methods to investigate the interactions of cognitive areas of the thalamus with the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. I fabricated multi-tetrode arrays to record, simultaneously for the first time, from the midline thalamus, CA1, and mPFC of freely behaving rats. This approach provided new insights into the spike and LFP dynamics that
organize the interactions between thalamocortical and hippocampal cells during NREM sleep.

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