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Division of Intramural Research

Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity

3D reconstruction of central amygdala neuron

Yarimar Carrasquillo, Ph.D., leads the Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity Section in the NCCIH Intramural Division. The main goal of the lab is to identify anatomical, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that underlie pathological pain states. Research will focus on the amygdala, a structure in the limbic brain system that plays critical roles in the modulation of tactile hypersensitivity, pain-related aversion learning, and pain-induced changes in anxiety-related behaviors in rodent models of persistent pain.

Electrophysiological studies have demonstrated that increased excitability of amygdala neurons correlates with persistent pain, suggesting that hyperexcitability of neurons in the amygdala plays a critical role in the modulation of pain hypersensitivity. The specific conductance pathways affected and the molecular mechanisms underlying plasticity of the intrinsic excitability of amygdala neurons, however, are not known. In addition, the physiological role(s) of changes in the excitability of amygdala neurons to pain-related behaviors remain undefined. Research in the lab addresses these questions directly by combining behavioral, biochemical, electrophysiological, pharmacological and molecular genetic approaches.

Parallel studies in the lab use anatomical, behavioral, electrophysiological, and optogenetic approaches to define how alterations in the excitability of amygdala neurons affect function at a circuit-level. These studies focus on evaluating the physiological impact of the modulation of neuronal excitability in distinct anatomical pathways to and from the amygdala on different components of persistent pain, including the sensory, affective and cognitive components.

We are now accepting postdoc applications! Submit your application to Dr. Yarimar Carrasquillo.

Lab Chief

carrasquillo yarimar_Lisa Helfert

Dr. Yarimar Carrasquillo joined the Pain and Integrative Neuroscience  Branch of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as an Investigator in 2014. In her lab, Dr. Carrasquillo directs a multifaceted, multidisciplinary research program focused on delineating the anatomical, molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie pain perception and modulation.

Dr. Carrasquillo received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Baylor College of Medicine. She started her scientific career by studying the molecular basis of learning and memory as a Minority Biomedical Research Support Program (MBRS) Undergraduate Trainee in the lab of Dr. Sandra Peña de Ortiz. She continued studying the neural mechanisms underlying behavior during her graduate training in the lab of Dr. Robert W. Gereau at Baylor College of Medicine.

Her graduate work revealed critical roles for the amygdala in the modulation of persistent pain and also demonstrated that the extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) plays a role in this process. Her postdoctoral studies in the lab of Dr. Jeanne Nerbonne at Washington University School of Medicine revealed previously unappreciated molecular and functional diversity of repolarizing voltage-gated K+ currents in central neurons.

Lab Members

Luis Rivera, Predoctoral Fellow

Luis Rivera is a predoc fellow in the Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity. He can be reached at or (301) 443-7983.

Sudhuman Singh, Ph.D., Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow

Sudhuman Singh, Ph.D., is a visiting postdoc fellow in the Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity. He can be reached at or (301) 594-2477. 

Omar Soler-Cedeno, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Omar Soler-Cedeno, Ph.D., is a postdoc fellow in the Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity. He can be reached at or at (301)594-2477.

Spring Valdivia Torres, Ph.D., Visiting Postdoc Fellow

Torri Wilson, Lab Manager and Biologist

Torri Wilson joined the Carrasquillo lab in April 2014. She received a bachelor's degree in animal sciences from the Virginia State University in Petersburg. Torri has extensive research experience as an animal biologist. She assists with animal colony maintenance and laboratory management.