Department of Biology welcomes new faculty member

The UO Department of Biology welcomed a new faculty member affiliated with the Institute of Neuroscience this year. Santiago Jaramillo’s research career began as an engineer in Colombia, where his interest in computational systems inspired him to begin studying the human brain.

After completing his Ph.D. in Barak Pearlmutter’s Brain and Computation Lab at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Jaramillo spent a summer at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, where he first started using animal systems in his studies of neural information processing.

Jaramillo is continuing to draw upon his interdisciplinary background while studying the neuronal circuits that mediate behavioral flexibility (the ability to respond differently to a situation depending on context).

His research group, part of the Institute of Neuroscience, focuses specifically on auditory tasks and behavior in mice and other rodents. The team is examining how organisms rapidly modify their expectations — associations between cues and rewards, or attentional stateafter changes in context. The lab in the Lewis Integrative Science Building investigates these cognitive processes by addressing three questions:

  • What happens to the speed and accuracy of behavioral responses after a change in context?

  • Where in the brain is information selected and re-routed to allow for different interpretations of the same stimulus?

  • How do neural circuits implement this flexibility?

The Jaramillo lab uses tools for monitoring and manipulating neuronal activity of specific cell types in behaving rodents, together with theoretical and computational approaches, to uncover the mechanisms that underlie flexible behaviors.

Jaramillo is the latest researcher to join the Institute of Neuroscience as part of its expanding focus on systems neuroscience and cognitive psychology, a strength at the UO that seeks to advance our understanding of brain function. Such research at the UO aligns with the BRAIN Initiative announced by the Obama administration, which seeks to promote research in neuroscience and brain function.

Visit the JaraLab website for more information.