Tomas R Guilarte, M.S., Ph.D.
Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health
My laboratory is interested in understanding the impact of exposure to environmental pollutants on brain function and behavior. We are looking for outstanding doctoral students with background in neurotoxicology and/or neuroscience that are interested in studying the role of environmental factors on neurodegenerative and mental disease to incorporate in our research program. Current research projects are outlined below and they include studies from behavior to molecules including mechanistic studies in cultured brain cells and the use of neuroimaging techniques such as PET and MRI.
Project 1: NMDA Receptor Function in Lead Neurotoxicity: My laboratory has a long history of studying the impact of developmental exposure to the heavy metal lead (Pb) on cognition and NMDA receptor function. Our most recent work involves studying the putative association between early life (Pb) exposure and schizophrenia neuropathology in an experimental animal model. We are studying the mechanism(s) by which early life Pb exposure results in the specific loss of parvalbumin-positive GABAergic interneurons in the brain of adolescent Pb-exposed animals and what the impact this neuropathology has on gamma-oscillations and cognitive function. We are performing this work in collaboration colleagues at Harvard Medical School (Dr. Bernat Kocsis – Neurophysiology). This work is supported by grant ES006189.
Project 2: Peripheral BDZ Receptor: a Biomarker of Neurotoxicity: Another area of research is related to the validation of a biomarker of neuroinflammation called Translocator Protein 18 kDa (TSPO). We are currently studying the function of TSPO in glial cells, specifically in microglia and astrocytes. Our laboratory pioneered the use and validation of TSPO for preclinical and clinical studies using neuroimaging techniques. We are performing this work in collaboration with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions-Department of Radiology (Dr. Martin Pomper) and the work is funded by grant ES007062.
Project 3: Molecular & Behavioral Effects of Low Level Manganese Exposure: We are also studying the effects of chronic exposure to manganese on behavioral, neuroimaging and neuropathological endpoints associated with manganese-induced parkinsonism and cognitive dysfunction. This work is being performed in collaboration with colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University (Dr. Jay Schneider-Behavior) and at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution-Department of Radiology (Dr. Dean Wong-PET and MRI imaging). This work is funded by grant ES010975.
Project 4: Presynaptic Mechanisms of Lead Neurotoxicity: The focus of this work is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which lead (Pb) exposure alters presynaptic vesicular release and approaches that can be use to mitigate such effects. This work uses methodologies from electrophysiology to two-photon imaging in collaboration with colleagues at New York Medical College (Dr. Patric Stanton–Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy) and it is funded by grant ES020465.
Department of Environmental & Occupational Health
Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work
Florida International University
Modesto A. Maidique Campus, AHC5 355
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199