Ramon y Cajal Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmacology
School of Medicine
University of the Basque Country
48940 Leioa, Spain
Olga is dedicated to understanding neuropsychiatric disorders, especially Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with a translational focus, studying the molecular pathways and circuits that lead to abnormal behavior with the purpose of restoring normal behavior. ASD form a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by deficits in communication and social interactions, and the presence of repetitive behavior/restricted interests that affects about one in 68 individuals. Well-defined animal models of the disorder are essential to study the biological basis and to test and develop effective pharmacological treatments. Her work includes behavioral characterization of animal models, in vivo pharmacology studies, neuroanatomy and molecular biology to study the relationship between neurons, brain circuits and behavior. In a multi-faceted work, Olga characterized one of the most powerful animal models for ASD research (Peñagarikano et al., Cell 2011). This work earned her the Top 10 Science Autism Research Achievements of 2011, designation from Autism Speaks, one of the most prestigious Autism Research Foundations. Awarded an Autism Speaks translational postdoctoral training grant she extended her work to understanding the mechanisms of social behavior deficits in ASD, a major goal of current research. She found that the oxytocin system, widely linked to social behaviour, is disturbed in this mouse model (Peñagarikano et al., Sci Transl Med 2015). Modulation of the oxytocin system is currently one of the most promising pharmacotherapies for disorders of social cognition. Olga recently started her path to independence as Assistant Professor, and is currently a NARSAD Young Investigator Awardee studying how oxytocin exerts its behavioral effects. The ultimate goal is to apply findings in mouse models towards human interventions.