Diego D. Alvarez, Ph.D.

Title
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department
Biological Sciences, Neurobiology
Institution
University of California, San Diego
Address
9500 Gilman Drive, Room 323
City, State, Zip
La Jolla, CA 92093
Country
United States
Phone
(858) 246-­1143
E-mail
diegoalvarezar@gmail.com
Website
http://brendabloodgood.com/the-lab
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2018
Country Of Origin
Argentina
Mentor Name
Brenda Bloodgood, Ph.D.

Research

In the Bloodgood lab, I intend to investigate the molecular and genetic mechanisms that direct the development of the brain’s visual circuitry after birth. For neuronal circuits in the brain to develop properly, animals must process optical information coming from both eyes. Sensory deprivation in either eye during this so-called “critical period” of development can result in a permanent loss of visual acuity or focus. In baby mice that are reared in the dark, exposure to light triggers the production of a protein called Npas4, suggesting that it may play a role in neuronal rewiring in response to light. Using techniques in molecular genetics, physiology, and neural imaging, I will assess whether eliminating the activity of Npas4 in mice disturbs the formation of functioning visual circuits—and whether boosting Npas4 activity can extend the period of time during which this essential development occurs. If loss of Npas4 does indeed disrupt visual circuit development, I will then explore whether exposure to an enriched visual environment (e.g. a larger cage with more toys) can overcome deficiencies caused by disabling Npas4. These findings could lead to novel treatments for conditions that impair visual focus early in life, such as amblyopia or lazy eye.

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