Florida State University

Accepting new graduate students.

Dr. Carmen Varela

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
PDB B438


My laboratory aims to elucidate the mechanisms (cellular, network, computational) by which thalamic cells and networks contribute to learning and memory. A primary goal is to shed light on the spike and local field potential dynamics that facilitate learning and memory across the sleep-wake cycle. One of our general hypotheses is that thalamic networks allow mammals to learn and update the internal mental models of the world that are the foundation of adaptive behavior.
Current Research
Ongoing experiments include determining the sleep spindle cell dynamics that promote memory consolidation and cognitive flexibility in rats. This project is funded by a grant from the Whitehall Foundation, and is led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Zoe Atherton. A second project aims to develop innovative methods for closed-loop regulation of sleep oscillations to improve cognitive function. This project is supported by a UG3/UH3 grant from NIMH as part of a collaboration with Dr. Dara Manoach at Harvard-MGH, and is led in my lab by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Annie da Costa Souza. One more project seeks to determine the link between thalamic activity and sleep microarchitecture. This is funded by a grant from the Alzheimer’s Association and we are currently looking for a student or post-bac to lead this set of experiments.
Recent Publications
Becker LA, Penagos H, Flores FF, Manoach DS, Wilson MA, Varela C (2022). Eszopiclone and Zolpidem Produce Opposite Effects on Hippocampal Ripple Density. Frontiers in Pharmacology, .
Varela C, Wilson MA (2022). Reversal Learning: It's just a phase. Current Biology, Vol. 32, Issue 15, pr849-r851.
Desai, N; Varela, C (2021). Distinct Burst Properties Contribute to the Functional Diversity of Thalamic Nuclei. J Comp Neurol, .
Varela C, Wilson MA (2020). mPFC Spindle Cycles Organize Sparse Thalamic Activation and Recently Active CA1 cells During non-REM Sleep. eLife, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.48881.
Wilson MA, Varela C, Remondes M (2015). Phase organization of network computations. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 10.1016/j.conb.2014.12.011.
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