Interests: Developmental epilepsy, the relationship between epilepsy and autism, and neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory in zebrafish larvae.
I investigate how seizures during different periods of neurodevelopment result in long-term changes in learning and memory, social behavior, and repetitive/stereotyped behaviors. I also investigate the neural mechanisms that mediate these changes through molecular and imaging techniques. In particular, I am examining how seizures induce changes in the mTOR and MAPK signaling pathways and how these changes lead to alterations in potassium channels and other synaptic proteins.
My interest in examining behavioral changes is also why I am examining the link between autism and epilepsy. Children with epilepsy have a high comorbidity with autism but the underlying mechanism is not known. I plan to investigate how seizures could lead to autistic-like behavior in mice.
My third research question is whether zebrafish larvae can be used as an animal model to investigate the impact of early-life seizures on behavior. Zebrafish have been greatly used in genetics and are increasingly be used in in vivo imaging studies. By examining whether seizures induce behavioral changes in zebrafish I will be able to examine the neurocircuitry changes underlying the behavioral alterations through numerous imaging and genetic techniques. Furthermore, since there are few tests to examine behaviors such as learning and memory in zebrafish my lab will also be creating and validating new behavioral assays.
Dr. Joaquin Lugo
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Waco, TX 76798