Núcleo Milenio de Enfermedades Neuropsiquiátricas NU-MIND
Centro Interdisciplinario de Neurociencia de Valparaíso (CINV)
Research Area: Neuronal and synaptic Physiology
Synaptic Physiology and Neuromodulation Lab, Professor Dr. Andrés Chávez
Ph.D. in Science, Mention in Neuroscience, Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile (2015).
Bachelor Degree in Biological Science, Neurobiology Specialization, Universidad Complutense de
Madrid, España (2010)
E-mail: carla.alvarez at cinv.cl; email@example.com
Address: Centro Interdisciplinario de Neurociencia de Valparaíso.
Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Valparaíso.
Gran Bretaña 1111. Playa Ancha. Valparaíso. Chile.
Brain function is based on the coordinate activity of billions neurons that communicate each other at specific sites called synapses. There occurs the synaptic transmission, which can be excitatory or inhibitory, and must be precisely regulate to sustain proper brain function. Notably, imbalance between excitation and inhibition are related with the development of different neuropsychiatric disorders as schizophrenia, autism and depression. Thus, the action of several neuromodulators as neuropeptides and endocannabinoids, which precisely tune synaptic transmission, is crucial for proper brain function and therefore to produce correct behaviors. However, it is not completely understood the mechanisms by which neuromodulation systems interplay to regulate synaptic transmission. Hence, I am interesting into understand how precisely synaptic transmission is modulated in healthy and pathological brain.
During the development of my doctoral thesis I studied how astrocytes, the main type of glial cell in the central nervous system (CNS), modulate synaptic transmission by the Ca2+-dependent release of neuroactive substances like glutamate and ATP. By means of electrophysiologic techniques – patch clamp- and Ca2+-imaging in astrocytes from acute hippocampal slices, I showed that astroglial function is increased in a chronic rat model of epilepsy, producing an increase in the excitatory synaptic transmission in the hippocampus.
Currently, during my postdoc in Dr. Chavez’s Lab, I am investigating how the neuropeptide oxytocin, serotonin and endocannabinoids modulate synaptic transmission. I am focus in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, key estructures involved in cognitive processes such learning and memory and where disruption of synaptic function is believed to contribute to various neuropsychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression. We will use a combination of electrophysiology, optogenetic and genetic manipulated animals to decipher the effect of neuromodulation systems on neuronal network and behaviors. Unmasking the role of neuromodulators in synaptic function may provide new insights into the cellular basis underlying brain function and should allow us to integrate this information into a larger framework from which to investigate new aspects of brain physiology and pathology.
- Carla Álvarez-Ferradas, Juan Morales, Mario Wellmann, Marco Fuenzalida, Manuel Roncagliolo, Christian Bonansco (2015)Enhanced astroglial Ca2+ signaling increases excitatory synaptic strength at the epileptic brain. Glia, 63(9):1507-21 (doi: 10.1002/glia.22817)
- Juan C. Morales, Carla Álvarez-Ferradas, Mario Wellmann, Manuel Roncagliolo, Marco Fuenzalida and Christian Bonansco (2014) A new rapid kindling variant for induction of cortical epileptogenesis in freely moving rats. Frontiers in cellular Neuroscience, (doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00200)
- Christian Bonansco, Alejandro Couve, Gertrudis Perea, Carla Álvarez Ferradas, Manuel Roncagliolo and Marco Fuenzalida (2011)Glutamate released spontaneously from astrocytes set the threshold on synaptic plasticity. European Journal of Neuroscience, 33(8):1483– 92 (doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07631.x)