Azahara grew up in a small village of Castilla La Mancha (Spain). She majored in Physics at the Complutense University of Madrid, where she worked in modeling brain signals that exhibited chaotic dynamics adjusting the non-linear properties of an attractor system. This got her interested into the brain so she joined a Masters in Biomedical Physics and Neuroscience, where she worked on developing a biologically informed model of a single cell and later a population of neurons to reproduce brain patterns observed in the hippocampus. She couldn’t believe it was so difficult to reproduce every single aspect of a biological signal so she decided to take a grasp into experimental work. For her PhD (in the University of Szeged, Hungary), she implanted large-count electrodes in the hippocampus and entorhinal regions of rats and recorded them during various behavioral assays to later analyze how different brain patterns important for learning and memory are coordinated during learning and memory tasks. For her postdoc (Columbia University and NYU), she developed new experimental methods to detect (and manipulate) memory processes online and test how our current theory of memory from a system neuroscience perspective, support abstract knowledge.
The main focus of my research is to understand how global brain states modulate local network activity during learning, memory and sleep. In order to produce behavior, brain-wide networks working at a slow time scale coordinate the precise temporal dynamics of local neural processes in distributed brain areas. In addition, the brain maintains an optimal work-life balance, engaging more of its computational capabilities when needed to support behavior and resetting them regularly. What is the neural transfer function between different neuronal ensembles across brain structures, during different brain states or behaviors are some of the questions that we try to approach in the lab. In our lab we use rodents in a variety of laboratory behavioral assays and naturalistic behaviors, where animals are trained in either spontaneous or memory-demanding tasks, as well as monitored during sleep. We use large-scale depth electrodes (silicon probes, neuropixels…) in combination with closed-loop optogenetics or fiber photometry guided by cell-type specific manipulations. We apply a broad variety of computational tools for data mining the single cell level as well as the population dynamics.
- Harvey R, Robinson HL, Liu C, Oliva A, Fernandez-Ruiz A. Hippocampo-cortical circuits for selective memory encoding, routing and replay. Biorxiv, 2022
- Oliva A, Fernandez-Ruiz A, Leroy F, Siegelbaum SA. Hippocampal CA2 sharp-wave ripples reactivate and promote social memory. Nature, 2020
- Fernandez-Ruiz A, Oliva A, Oliveira F, Rocha-Almeida F, Tingley D, Buzsaki G. Long-duration sharp-wave ripples improve memory. Science, 2019
- Oliva A, Fernandez-Ruiz A, Buzsaki G, Berenyi A. Role of Hippocampal CA2 region in triggering sharp-wave ripples. Neuron, 2016