Current members

Lucia Illescas

Lucía majored in Biochemistry at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and earned a MSc in Translational Neuropsychopharmacology at Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche. During her MSc, she was part of the Translational Neuropsychopharmacology of Neurological and Psychiatric Diseases Group at the Neuroscience Institute of Alicante, where she researched the role of the cannabinoid receptor GPR55 in the regulation of anxiety and stress response. She started her PhD thesis in the Cognition and social interaction laboratory in 2022.

Helena Bortolozzo Gleich

Helena completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Uniguaçu, Brasil. There, she also accumulated experience in neuropsychological evaluation. She then moved to Alicante to complete a master’s degree in neuroscience at the Instituto de Neurociencias, where she also investigated sex differences in social decision-making in rodents, at the Cognition and Social Interactions lab. Helena joined the Cognition and social interaction laboratory in 2021 as a PhD student.

Yuki Nomura

Yuki graduated from Azabu University in 2011 with a BS in Sciences. She joined the Cognition and Social Interaction laboratory in 2021 as a technician.

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 joined the Cognition and Social Interactions laboratory as a postdoc in 2021.

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. Since 2021, she is 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. Since 2021, 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 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 in 2020 to study the lateral septum organization in normal and disease context under the guidance of Dr. Leroy. She is currently a doctoral student in the same laboratory.


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 in the discovery of a new form of plasticity in CA2 and also helped to characterize CA2 output projections. He then obtained his PhD student in Neurobiology in Dr. Bob Datta’s lab at Harvard Medical School.

Jung Park

Jung is interested in identifying neural circuits that underlie complex behaviors. He rotated in Dr. Steven Siegelbaum’s lab at Columbia University in order to investigate if CA2 contributes to other types of social behaviors in addition to social memory as was recently shown in the lab. He decided to work under the guidance of Dr. Leroy attracted by his project looking at how CA2 regulates social aggression via an extra-hippocampal pathway . Under the mentorship of Dr. Leroy, he developed a social aggression assay for the lab. He also learned slice physiology and various surgical techniques that he continued to utilize throughout his PhD in Dr. Randy Bruno’s lab at Columbia University.

Lara Boyle

Laura joined the lab of Dr. Steven Siegelbaum as an MD/PhD student working under the guidance or Dr. Leroy. Laura is interested in the fundamental relationship between memories and behavior. She uses 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. Her 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.

Shivani Bigler

Shivani Bigler graduated from Tufts University before joining the Columbia University 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. She performed her second rotation under the guidance of Dr. Leroy.

Auriane Gerbelot-Barillon

Auriane is a french Master student at the Biology Department of the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay. Her interest in behavior and previous internship focused on electrophysiology at the Institut du Fer à Moulin in Paris led her to join the Cognition and Social Interaction laboratory in 2021 for her Master internship to study plasticity in the hippocampus using in vivo ephys recordings.

Sidonie Bourgoin

“Sidonie is a French Master student in biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay after 2 years spent at AgroParisTech, the France’s leading Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Science. She’s interested in becoming a teacher and in better understanding behaviour and memory. This led her to conduct two internships in 2021. The first one was at the Institut du Fer à Moulin in Paris, under the direction of Gabrielle Girardeau, to work on the hippocampal-amygdala coordination during Non-REM sleep and its role in aversive memory consolidation. The second one was at the Leading Planet Institute in Paris under the direction of Ignacio Atal to work about a project studying teachers as researchers to help them to achieve their job. In 2022, she continued on this way and performed her master internship in the Cognition and Social Interaction laboratory to study the discrimination encoding for familiar individuals in the mouse lateral septum”

Feimeng Wu

Feimeng is a French bioengineering student at Agroparistech, France. Interested in the neural mechanisms of social behaviour and emotions, she joined the cognition and social interaction laboratory during the summer of 2022 for her master internship to study dominance hierarchy in mice using behavioral assays, chemogenetic technics and fiberphotometry.

Guillaume Bouisset

Guillaume graduated in Neurosciences, he completed a first year of a master’s degree in ecology and evolution, then he redirected himself towards a second year of a master’s degree in neurosciences, behaviour and cognition. During his MSc, he worked on the biomechanics of load transport in ants (Formica rufa). Then, he obtained his PhD at animal cognition research center at the Paul Sabatier university of Toulouse with Dr. Laure Verret. His project aimed at studying the implication of the remodelling of parvalbumin interneurons and their extracellular matrix in the restoration of memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. The aim of his thesis was to establish a link between the stimulation of PV interneurons and/or the restoration of their presence in the hippocampus, and the cognitive benefits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease following a transient stay in an enriched environment. He joined the Cognition and Social Interactions laboratory as a postdoc in 2023.