Isabel A. Muzzio, Ph.D.
Phone: (210) 458-4810
Areas of Specialization
» Animal cognition
» Learning and memory
» Sleep and memory
» Spatial navigation
Ph.D. in Psychology; Rutgers University
M.S. in Psychology; Rutgers University
B.S. in Psychology; University of Massachusetts
Dr. Muzzio’s lab investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms associated with episodic memory and spatial navigation. Episodic memories are events that happen in specific contexts at particular times. The hippocampus is a brain region that plays a crucial role in the encoding and retrieval of episodic memories. Evidence supporting this role is observed in the ability of its neurons to fire in particular locations as animals move through an environment, which serves to generate a cognitive map that is crucial for navigation and provides the spatial context in which episodic events are embedded. At present, however, the physiological changes associated with distinct forms of learning and the contribution of different hippocampal areas to spatial navigation and episodic memory are still not fully understood. To investigate these questions, Dr. Muzzio’s lab conducts in vivo recordings in freely moving mice while animals learn and retrieve various tasks. Using this technique Dr. Muzzio is currently pursuing the following questions:
- What is the contribution of the ventral hippocampus to episodic memory formation and spatial processing? Dr. Muzzio’s lab has recently demonstrated that the ventral hippocampus contains precise spatial information at the population level. She now wants to investigate how the dorsal and ventral regions interact and how these areas synchronize with other parts of the brain during acquisition and retrieval of spatial memories.
- What is the effect of sleep deprivation on hippocampal representations in young and old animals? Sleep has been shown to be important for memory consolidation. Yet the way sleep alterations affect hippocampal representations in young and old animals remains unknown. Dr. Muzzio’s lab has recently found that acute sleep deprivation changes sleep patterns in young and old animals, which produces differential effects on memory and hippocampal activity. She now wants to investigate the effects of chronic sleep deprivation and the molecular alterations associated with these processes.
- How is the hippocampus map affected during reorientation? Although much is known about hippocampal representations during normal navigation, very little is understood about the hippocampus map when a navigator becomes lost or disoriented. Dr. Muzzio’s lab has recently shown that a lost navigator needs to perform two cognitive processes in order to reorient in space. (i) She must identify the environment where she is situated, and (ii) she must determine the direction she is facing within that context. Dr. Muzzio is now studying how the hippocampus represents these processes at the cellular level. Moreover, she wants to study how the reorientation map is altered in animal models of diseases characterized by chronic disorientation.
Click here for a list of publications.