Disorders such as autism and schizophrenia affect the development and connectivity of the brain, causing significant impact on cognitive function and behavior. In recent years, an increasing number of genetic mutations has been associated with higher risk to suffer from psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. However, our mechanistic understanding of their impact on brain development is still limited.
Postdoctoral Research in Genomics and Neuroscience (since 2021)
As a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Christopher A. Walsh (Division of Genetics and Genomics at Boston Children’s Hospital), I am investigating evolutionary mechanisms involved in the assembly of specialized cellular networks in the human cerebral cortex. I am also studying the functional impact of genetic mutations associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia to dissect dysfunctional signaling pathways of the developing cerebral cortex. To gain fundamental understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms of brain development in evolution and disease, I am combining experimental animal models, cellular-based systems, CRISPR-based gene editing, comparative transcriptomics, and human genomic analyses.
PhD in Developmental Neurobiology (2016 – 2021)
During my PhD co-advised by Prof. Beatriz Rico and Prof. Oscar Marín in the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at King’s College London, I studied molecular and cellular mechanisms that instruct the formation and function of cortical circuits, and how genetic variations associated with psychiatric disorders including autism and schizophrenia might alter their normal developmental trajectories. My research focused on the synaptic assembly of interneurons and pyramidal cells, the two major neuronal components of the cerebral cortex (Exposito-Alonso et al., eLife, 2020). To address these questions, my work in the lab involved molecular and cellular biology, mouse genetics, CRISPR-based gene editing, histology, and confocal microscopy. Additionally, I gained experience on bioinformatic analysis including transcriptomics, and slice electrophysiological recordings.
MRes in Developmental Neurobiology (2015-16)
During my MRes at the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at King’s College London, I applied a variety of techniques to understand cortical circuit connectivity during development and disease. In my first rotation in Prof. Juan Burrone‘s lab, I used electron microscopy-based 3D reconstructions to explore the spatial distribution patterns of synapses along dendrites of pyramidal cells. In my second rotation in Prof. Oscar Marín‘s lab, I combined bioinformatic analysis and histological studies to investigate genetic mechanisms underlying interneuron dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders. In my third rotation in Prof. Beatriz Rico‘s lab, I took advantage of optogenetic approaches and electrophysiological recordings coupled with immunohistochemistry to study the differential inhibitory control that interneuron subtypes exert on pyramidal cells.
MSc in Neurosciences (2014-15)
During my Master’s degree at the University of Barcelona, I studied the architecture of synaptic connectivity in the cerebral cortex with nanometer resolution using scanning electron microscopy, working in the laboratory of Prof. Eduardo Soriano (Institute of Neurosciences, and Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology, University of Barcelona). My research focused on ultrastructural analysis of dendritic spines and presynaptic boutons in hippocampal newborn neurons.
BSc in Biological Sciences (2010-14)
As an undergraduate student at the University of Alicante, I had a passionate curiosity about how the study of molecules and cells might provide valuable insights to our understanding of disease processes, which led me to several internships: exploring the regulatory effects of mesenchymal stem cells on the immune response of blood cells, supervised by Prof. José Miguel Sempere (Department of Biotechnology, University of Alicante, Spain); performing molecular clinical assays for immunological disorders, under the supervision of Dr. Mª Luz de la Sen Fernández (Immunology Unit, Alicante General Hospital, Spain); and studying cellular chemotaxis and inflammatory responses, supervised by Dr. Mario Mellado the (National Center of Biotechnology CNB-CSIC, Madrid, Spain).