Lab Members

Neurocircuitry & Cognition Team

Postdoctoral Researchers

Leila M. Allen, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Allen is interestLeila Feinberged in studying the neural mechanisms underlying memory and dementia. In the lab she conducts neurobiological and behavioral experiments exploring the neural computations of a prefrontal-hippocampal network. Currently, she is using high resolution 3D printing techniques to produce rat brain implant systems and developing neurobehavioral assays in pigs and minipigs.

Dr. Allen earned her Doctor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine in the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior in 2015, and her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 2005 in Psychology and Biology. She is the founding Director of the Behavioral Neuroscience BS in the Department of Psychology.

Dr. Allen’s Google Scholar Page


Tatiana D. Viena, Ph.D.

NIH R01 Diversity Supplement Recipient and CASE Distinguished Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Viena is interested in the role of midline thalamic nuclei, particularly the nucleus reuniens of the thalamus, and their contributions to coordinating cognitive networks (focused on the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus). She is currently working on a optogenetic approach for dynamically altering network coherence via the nucleus reuniens stimulation. Toward these goals she is developing an innovative approach by targeting the expression of ChR2 in nucleus reuniens using a retrograde AAV approach in rats.

Dr. Viena earned her Doctor of Philosophy at the Florida Atlantic University in the Center for Complex Systems with Dr. Robert Vertes in 2018, and her Bachelor of Science degree at Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Viena’s Google Scholar Page


Doctoral Graduate Students

Maanasa Jayachandran, M.S.

Doctoral Candidate

Ms. Jayachandran is interested in the neurobiological mechanism of disease processes related to cognition and behavior. Specifically she focuses on understanding memory for sequences of event and how this ability emerges from the interactions of the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. She recently demonstrated that top down mPFC pathways targeting reuniens and perirhinal cortex differentially control the retrieval strategy used to support sequence memory. Importantly, Ms. Jayachandran explores the computational contributions of these pathways using high-density drivable arrays of tetrodes to record neural activity while manipulating neurotransmission in specific pathways. Prior to joining the lab, Ms. Jayachandran explored the role of the active zone protein Bruchpilot (BRP) in Drosophila, and miRNA-218 in motor neuron development in zebrafish.

Ms. Jayachandran has earned two Masters of Science degrees, one at Florida International University in 2019, and one at the University of Sydney in Brain and Mind Sciences in 2014, and dual Bachelor of Science degrees at the University of Miami in Molecular Biochemistry and Neurobiology in 2013.

Maanasa’s Email   Maanasa’s Google Scholar Page 


Puck Reeders, M.S.

Doctoral Candidate

Ms. Reeders is interested in the neurobiology of memory in humans and animals. In the lab she is using sophisticated cognitive tasks in conjunction with neuroimaging in humans. Currently, she is conducting studies of human neurocircuitry using probabilistic tractography on diffusion weighted imaging data, and is interested in investigating structural connectivity differences in memory circuits in Alzheimer’s Disease. Previously Ms. Reeders worked in the clinical neuroradiology department at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Ms. Reeders earned her Master of Science degree at Florida International University in 2019, and her Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami in Psychology and Chemistry in 2015.


Maximilian Schlecht, M.S.

Doctoral Graduate Student

Mr. Schlecht joined the lab as a Research Technician  in order to assist with research disrupting activity in specific circuit pathways in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal circuitry.  He is adept with confocal imaging and histology which is used to determine DREADD expression patterns in specific circuits of the rat hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex connection pathways. He now joins the lab as a graduate student and will begin mapping circuitry in mPFC-RE-HC pathways using dual-labeling retrograde tracer approaches.

Mr. Schlecht earned his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University in 2015.


Mandy Hamm, M.S.

Doctoral Candidate

Ms. Hamm is a dual lab member in the Memory and Development laboratory under Dr. Aaron Mattfeld, and in the Allen Lab under Dr. Timothy Allen.

Ms. Hamm is interested in neurobiological mechanisms of memory in humans and animals. In the lab she is designing sophisticated translational cognitive tasks for both humans and pigs and uses that in conjunction with neuroimaging in humans.

Ms. Hamm earned two masters degrees, one at Florida International University in 2019, and one at Eastern Kentucky University in 2015, and a bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 2013 and a bachelor of arts degree in paralegal science in 2006 at the Eastern Kentucky University.


Valentina Roldan

Graduate Student

Ms. Valentina Roldan earned her Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Florida International University in 2021. Her interest in learning and memory is geared towards behavioral analysis using computational methods such as MATLAB and Python. As an undergraduate research assistant in the lab, Ms. Roldan successfully implemented the use of the DeepLabCut program to perform in-depth and quantifiable behavioral analysis in rodents recorded in open-field, sleep, and sequence-memory settings. Prior to joining our lab, Ms. Roldan trained at FIU’s Dr. Anuradha Godavarty’s Optical Imaging Lab analyzing oxygen saturation in diabetic foot ulcers




External Affiliates

Kierra Irby, M.S.

Graduate Student at UAB

Ms. Irby is  working with Dr. Allen focusing on the role of the midline thalamus in the neuropathological stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ms. Irby graduated from the University of Alabama with Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a minor in Neuroscience. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Multidisciplinary Biomedical Sciences and a concentration in Neuroscience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). 


Research Technicians

Gabriela Rasch

Research Technician

Ms. Rasch is currently pursuing a Biomedical Engineering major with a minor in Chemistry at Florida International University. She assists Dr. Tatiana Viena in a project that is geared at testing the role of nucleus reuniens in the coordination of cognitive networks using optogenetics.
 
 
 
 

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Maria Andere

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ms. Andere is currently pursuing a Biomedical Engineering major with a minor in mathematics at Florida International University. She assists Puck Reeders in multiple projects, including a human midline thalamus cross species review, and investigating structural connectivity changes in Alzheimer’s Disease.







Andy Garcia

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mr. Garcia is currently pursuing a Biology and Natural and Applied Sciences major alongside a minor in Computer Science at Florida International University. He assists Ms. Jayachandran in training animals on the sequence memory tasks as well as the work investigating the electrophysiology of the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus during sequence memory. For his undergraduate thesis, he is discovering neural synchrony that occurs during the sequence memory task.


Phoebe Langius

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ms. Langius is currently pursuing a Biology and Psychology major with a minor in Chemistry at Florida International University. She assists Ms. Jayachandran in a project that is geared at testing the role of sex and estrus cycle in sequence memory learning.





Abdiel Vasallo

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mr. Vasallo is currently pursuing a Chemistry and Natural and Applied Sciences double major with a minor in Biology at Florida International University. His undergraduate research work involves sorting single units from recordings in the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus from rats that perform the sequence memory task (under Maanasa Jayachandran) and rats in the open field post-activation of nucleus reuniens neurons (under Dr. Viena). In addition, Mr. Vasallo is currently working on implementing scripts that can identify and analyze sleep states in sleep recordings done from rats. Mr. Vasallo plans to pursue an MD-PhD track after graduating from FIU in 2023.


Sofia Leyva

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ms. Sofia Leyva earned her Bachelors of Science in Biology at Florida International University in the spring of 2021. She assists Ms. Jayachandran in training animals on a sequence memory task, cell sorting, behavioral re-tracking, cytology, histology, and ultimately the investigation of the electrophysiology of the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus during sequence of events.



Felipe Pazos Rego

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mr. Rego is pursuing a Masters in ‘Research, Measurement, and Evaluation’ after graduating from St. John’s College, Annapolis. He assists Ms. Jayachandran with data gathering, data analysis, and histology.


Christina Roca

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ms. Roca is currently pursuing a Behavioral Neuroscience major along with a second major in Natural and Applied Sciences at Florida International University. She works under Dr. Tatiana Viena investigating the influence of nucleus reuniens input (via optogenetic stimulations) on the firing properties of medial prefrontal neurons. Christina hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience after graduating from FIU in 2023.




Janice Martinez

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ms. Martinez is currently working towards her Biology B.S. major at Florida International University. She works under Dr. Tatiana Viena assisting with animal behavioral tracking, cell sorting and histology.





Megan Moussa

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ms. Moussa graduated Spring 2021 with a bachelors in Psychology and minors in both Biology and Chemistry at Florida International University. She assists Dr. Leila Allen in conducting experiments in the Porcine Neuroscience Facility (PNF) working on behavioral tasks in pigs. Ms. Moussa run the pigs on a spatial memory tasks, collects and organizes data, and assists on a variety of other tasks to support the experimental process.


Past Members:

Research Scientists:

Nathan Schultheiss, PhD (2017-2021)

Lab manager:

Meifung Su (2015-2017)

Undergraduate Research Assistants:

Andy Delgado (2018-2021)

Chiara Pavon (2017-2020)

Aaron Barreto-Diaz (2018-2020)

Maritza Aguiar (2018-2020)

Wanda Gonzalez (2018-2019)

Brittany Schwartz (2018-2019)

John Perez (2016-2018)

Randee Viena (2016-2017)

Alexis Cedeno (2016-2017)

Arina Polyanskaya (2016-2017)

Daniel Alvarez (2016-2017)

Julio Castillo (2015-2017)

Vicannia Merisma (2015-2016)

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