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Salvador B

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at Harvard University


Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience, Molecular Neuroscience, Fear and Anxiety Neuroscience Research


Hey there, my name is Salvador (you can call me Sal!) and I have received my PhD from the Program in Neuroscience at Harvard. I am broadly interested in studying brain circuits that regulate behavioral responses to threats. Specifically, my research focused on understanding how factors, like experience and the external environment, directly impact and change the normal activity of these brain circuits to produce distinct defensive behavioral responses. Ultimately, we hope that research like ours will help in our understanding of human stress-induced disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was born in Mexico City and have been living in the US since the age of 6. I've been extremely fortunate to have met a number of great mentors along the way who have guided me in my academic career. A personal goal of mine is to mentor students the way my mentors did for me! Outside of lab, I watch and play a lot of soccer (I am a Gooner for life!) and I am passionate about eSports (i.e. League of Legends).

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

To Fight or Flight? That is the question.

Our brains are wired from birth to respond to threats found in our immediate environment. These threat-activated circuits are responsible for regulating what is commonly referred to as our "Fight or Flight System". However, not everyone responds the same way to the same exact threat and not all behavioral responses are appropriate for the given conditions (e.g. fleeing from a friendly chihuahua may not be adaptive). What accounts for these differences in behavior? One explanation for these observed distinct behaviors is differences in past experience. How does previous experience affect our threat responding? In this project, we will read various peer-reviewed journals to gain an understanding of how researchers have looked at experience (i.e. stress) and its effect on brain activity in the presence of threats. We can explore this question by looking into: 1) Human research of patients with stress-induced psychiatric disorders (i.e. depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD). We will explore questions like, how do scientists measure human brain activity before and after stress? 2) Mouse research literature to learn about laboratory techniques used to assess defensive behaviors in response to threats. We will explore various ways to interpret research done with rodents and see how we can use this to learn more about human conditions.

Lighting up the brain!

Neurons, the cells of the brain, are dynamic electrical switches, turning ON and OFF as animals navigate everyday life. In neuroscience, a major goal is to understand how discrete neurons are responsible for regulating various types of behaviors, like feeding, freezing, and sleep (yes, sleep counts as a behavior!). How do researchers directly test the function of separate neurons on different types of behaviors? Are scientists able to turn these neuronal switches ON and OFF? In this project, we will explore some of the recent techniques scientists use to study specific brain regions and their role on different types of behavior in mouse models. Specifically, we will look at a technique called optogenetics, which involves artificially turning ON and OFF specific neurons using only LIGHT. By the end of this project, we will develop a research proposal that uses some of the techniques learned from our literature review. We will explore questions like: 1) How does optogenetics work? How is this different from other manipulation techniques (i.e. electrical stimulation)? 2) What are caveats to this technique that we should take into consideration? 3) How can we apply this technique to answer basic neuroscience questions? Can we come up with a project proposal that uses optogenetics?

Coding skills


Languages I know


Teaching experience

As an undergraduate, I worked as a Departmental Assistant for the Psychology department where I tutored fellow students on homework assignments and capstone projects (1 on 1 and group tutoring sessions). In graduate school I have volunteered for 3 years as a mentor for students participating in Harvard's Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program (SHURP). This involved meeting with undergraduate students in a biweekly basis over 2 months and helping them with career development. Over the past two years, I have mentored one student via Polygence and have taught a summer high school class on Psychology and Neuroscience at UCLA.



California Lutheran University
BS Bachelor of Science (2016)
Psychology | Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Harvard University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy

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