Current members

Noelia Sofia de Leon Reyes

Noelia graduated in Biotechnology and obtained an MSc in Biomedical Investigation. During her MSc, she worked in the laboratory of Teresa Iglesias investigating potential treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. Then, after 5 years in the laboratory of Dra. Marta Nieto she obtained her PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. During this period she investigated the molecular and cellular bases that sustain the emergence of complex cortical circuits in the brain. In addition, she interned in Randy Bruno’s Lab at Columbia University where she studied the neuronal responses of the somatosensory cortex during in vivo sensory processing. She is currently a Postdoc Investigator in the Cognition and Social Interactions Laboratory.

Toñi Ruiz

Toñi graduated in biology before getting a first master in Biomedicine at the University of Alicante. Then, she obtained a second master degree in Biology and Technology of Mammalian Reproduction at the University of Murcia. She worked as a research assistant in the Cellular Physiology and Nutrition Unit at the University Miguel Hernandez and then at the animal facility of the Neurosciences Institute of Alicante. She is currently the lab manager of the Cognition and Social Interactions laboratory.

Javier Paniaga

Javier graduated in Law and afterwards obtained a Master Degree in Mediation, Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolutions from the University of Valencia (Spain). He has previously worked for private sector and for the Spanish and European Public Administration. Among his work experience, the following should be highlighted.  He was appointed as President-Arbitrator of the Consumers Court of Arbitration of the Comunitat Valenciana, and he has worked as a manager for Mercadona S.A. (the largest food retailer in Spain). Formerly, Javier has been working as an Administrative and Financial Officer at the European Intellectual Property Office. He is currently the Project Manager and the personal assistant of Dr. Felix Leroy in the Cognition and Social Interactions Laboratory.

Paule Sierra Diaz

Paula is a psychologist that was always interested in understanding the neural substrate supporting cognitive processes. She has experience performing clinical neuropsychology evaluations with the elderly and psychiatric patients. She was also trained to perform neuropsychological intervention with psychiatric patients and studied the neuropsychological profile of elderly people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder.  She is currently undertaking the neuroscience master entitled from the bench to the bedside at the Universidad Miguel Hernández. For her master internship she joined the Cognition and Social Interaction laboratory to study the lateral septum organization in normal and disease context under the guidance of Dr Leroy.


David Brann

David Brann worked under the guidance of Dr. Leroy as a Columbia undergraduate for a year and then as a lab technician for another year. During his stay, he mastered many techniques such as immunohistochemistry and viral injection, and also worked to develop new methods to assay and quantify social behavior. He participated closely in the discovery of a new form of plasticity in CA2 and also helped to characterize CA2 output projections. He is currently a PhD student in Neurobiology in Dr. Bob Datta’s lab at Harvard Medical School.

Jung Park

Broadly, I’m interested in identifying neural circuits that underlie complex behaviors. When I began rotating in Dr. Steven Siegelbaum’s lab at Columbia University, I wanted to investigate if CA2 contributes to other types of social behaviors in addition to social memory as was recently shown in the lab. Hence, I found Dr. Leroy’s project looking at how CA2 regulates social aggression via an extra-hippocampal pathway extremely attractive. Under the mentorship of Dr. Leroy, we developed a social aggression assay for the lab. I also learned slice physiology and various surgical techniques that I continue to utilize throughout my PhD. Currently, I am a PhD candidate in Dr. Randy Bruno’s lab at Columbia University.

Lara Boyle

As an MD/PhD student in the lab of Dr. Steven Siegelbaum, I am interested in the fundamental relationship between memories and behavior. I use in vivo imaging and population-level circuit tracing and manipulation to query how the small hippocampal subregion, CA2, influences social recognition memories and subsequent social behavior. My career goal is to become a physician-scientist at a leading research university, with clinical specialization in psychiatry and research focus on the biological basis of psychiatric disorders. I worked under the guidance or Dr. Leroy during my rotation and beginning of my Ph.D. in the Siegelbaum lab.

Shivani Bigler

Shivani Bigler graduated from Tufts University before joining the Columbia doctoral program in neurobiology and behavior. She performed her second rotation under the guidance of Dr. Leroy during which she conducted behavioral experiments looking into the involvement of CA2 in mating.

Olivia Lofaro

Olivia majored in Neuroscience and Behavior at Wesleyan University, where she conducted an Honors Thesis examining the role of the central amygdala in reward preference. After graduating in 2017, she went on to the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the NIH to study neurobiological mechanisms involved in relapse to addictive substances such as methamphetamine and fentanyl. Currently, she is a first-year student in Columbia’s Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior. She is primarily interested in studying cellular and circuit mechanisms of behavior and how these mechanisms may be altered in psychiatric disease.