Congratulations to Gabriela Rodriguez in the Fitzpatrick Lab, who received an NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Eye Institute of the NIH for $211,650 over three years. Dr. Rodriguez studies how neurons that process visual information change when animals learn to discriminate visual stimuli. The main objectives of this project are to define the time course of learning-related changes in the brain and determine how different subtypes of neurons participate in this process. In order to do this, we track the activity of hundreds of neurons for days while animals learn a discrimination task in order to get a reward. Understanding when and how these changes happen in the mature brain will not only help answer basic questions about perception but could also lead to a deeper understanding of learning disabilities as well as uncovering novel avenues that promote change in the adult brain after injury, stroke, or prolonged sensory loss. This grant will support her technical and professional training in order to complete these objectives, disseminate the findings, and set the foundation for an independent research program.
Dr. Rodriguez is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Fitzpatrick lab at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI). Her interest in science initially developed as an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez, where she studied Industrial Biotechnology and was exposed to multiple lines of research. She went on to pursue her Ph.D. under the mentorship of Dr. Hey-Kyoung Lee at Johns Hopkins University where she studied how the brain changes after sensory loss in adulthood, using mice as a model system. Now she utilizes the tree shrew to investigate how neurons that process visual information change as an animal learns a visual discrimination task. Her work currently focuses on establishing the time course for learning-induced changes in the brain and how different types of neurons change throughout this process. Gabriela’s ultimate scientific goals are to lead an independent research group that takes a multidisciplinary approach to dissecting the mechanisms that allow the brain to be plastic in adulthood at various scales.