Flores Lab Members

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Giovanni Hernandez

Project Manager/Senior Research Associate Ph.D. Psychology – Concordia University, 2010

MSc Organizational Psychology – Universidad Simon Bolivar, 2003 MSc Psychology Behavioral Analysis – Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2002

Giovanni’s main interests lie in the elucidation of the neurobiological circuit underlying decision-making.

He graduated from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Caracas, Venezuela) with a B.S in Psychology in 1997 and then did two master’s degrees, one in Organizational Psychology and another in Behavior Analysis. He received his Ph.D. from Concordia University under the direction of Prof. Peter Shizgal; his graduate research focused on the role of dopamine in decision-making.  During his postdoctoral studies at the University of Maryland under the advice of Joseph Cheer, he studied how modulation of the dopaminergic system by the endocannabinoid system alters goal-directed behavior. At the Université de Montreal, under the advice of Pierre-Paul Rompré and Daniel Levesque, Giovanni identified an NMDA receptor (GluN2C) responsible for the relay of the reward signal in the ventral tegmental area.  He is now studying the development of dopamine neurons during adolescence and the effect of early-life exposure to cannabinoids. He has extensive experience using in-vivo techniques (Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, electrophysiology, microdialysis, fiber photometry, optogenetics) to correlate behavioral outputs with brain circuitry.


Dominique Nouel


Lab and Project Coordinator


Ph.D Neuroscience, Université de Rouen, France
M.Sc. Biologie et Physiologie, Université de Rouen, France B.Sc. Biochimie, Université de Rouen, France


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Michel Giroux


Lab Manager


Coming from another background, I learned neurobiology in Dr. Kenneth Kosik’s laboratory at UCSB. My current focus is on molecular biology and learning how drug abuse affects behavior and development.


Janet Zhao


Research Assistant

BSc Honors Neuroscience, McGill University, 2017-2021


I'm broadly interested in the molecular and neural circuitry basis of behaviors. Currently, I'm involved in projects that study the structural and functional changes of the dopamine system due to adolescent amphetamine exposure. After my gap year, I plan to further my scientific training by pursuing a PhD in neuroscience. 

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Phillip Vassilev


Postdoctoral fellow

PhD Psychology - University of Sussex, 2014-2018

BSc Psychology - University of Sussex, 2011-2014

I am interested in the role of neuronal ensembles in psychiatric diseases such as drug abuse and depression. A neuronal ensemble is a group of neurons characterised by similar afferent/efferent connections that collectively encode for a given behavioural function.

My current project is looking at the effects of social stress in adolescence and adulthood on cognitive performance, prefrontal cortex dopamine signalling and neuronal ensemble activity. The goal of my project is to understand how social stress affects prefrontal cortex function to cause cognitive impairments which are found across multiple psychiatric disorders.

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Jose Maria Restrepo


PhD Student (Co-supervised by

Dr. Patricia Pelufo Silveira)

B.A. Honours in Psychology (Distinction),

Concordia University, 2016

One of my research interests focuses on understanding whether and how exposure to different drugs during adolescence affect ongoing brain development. During the first years of my graduate studies, I investigated the effects of different doses of amphetamine during adolescence, and how this exposure impacts: (1) behaviors that depend on proper prefrontal cortex functioning, and (2) the expression of genes that coordinate adolescent neurodevelopment and synaptic plasticity. 


After I fast-tracked into the PhD program, we started a collaboration with Dr. Patricia Pelufo Silveira to translate our studies in rodent models to humans, trying to bring together perspectives from developmental neurobiology and systems genetics. I use a wide range of bioinformatics methods to study the relationship between variations in expression of gene networks and mesocorticolimbic dopamine development. 


Alice Morgunova

PhD Candidate

McGill IPN Rotation Student, 2017–2018

Postbaccalaureate – National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2017

B.A. – Molecular, Cellular, and Behavioral Neuroscience; Hampshire College, 2016

I am interested in dissecting the differences between healthy and pathological brains across the lifetime. My current project is examining how adolescent vulnerability to psychopathology is influenced by the expression of a particular microRNA in the medial prefrontal cortex. MicroRNAs have been shown to be promising markers for certain conditions and the goal of my research is to identify a biomarker signature for major depressive disorder and schizophrenia.

In addition, I am collaborating with Dr. Patricia Sliveira’s lab to investigate polygenetic expression of netrin-1 family genes and their networks in healthy human development.

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Andrea-Harée Pantoja-Urbán


Ph.D. Student – Integrated Program in Neuroscience,

McGill University (2017-present)

M.Sc. – Biological Sciences, Institute of Cellular Physiology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (2013-2015)
B.Sc – Biology, Faculty of Science Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (2008-2011

I am interested in discovering molecular mediators of vulnerability and resilience to psychopathology. My PhD project is focused on elucidating the role of the DCC/Netrin-1 system in response to stress in adolescence, a highly vulnerable period for the emergence of mental disorders. To study effects of social stress in adolescence on the ongoing development of the prefrontal cortex development, I spearheaded a modified chronic social defeat stress paradigm for use with male and female adolescent mice. Characterizing neurobiological mechanisms underlying of psychiatric disorders that have an adolescent onset, such as anxiety and depression, can provide valuable insight to prevention and treatment strategies. Contact:

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Ashraf Mahmud

Ph.D. Student

MA in Psychology (Research and Clinical Option), Concordia University

B.Sc. Specialization in Psychology (Distinction), Concordia University

Depression is a chronic disabling disorder, often precipitated by stress. Altered expression of the Netrin-1/DCC pathway in the prefrontal cortex is tightly linked to major depressive disorder in humans and to susceptibility to stress-induced behavioral abnormalities in mice. My research goal is to identify how the Netrin-1/DCC pathway in the prefrontal cortex modulates vulnerability/resilience to stress and to decipher the precise neural circuitries involved. I use the chronic social defeat stress model in male and female mice and combine anatomical methods and genetic strategies. In my spare time I write poetry.


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Del MacGowan

M.Sc. Student 

BSc. - Honors Specialization Neuroscience -

University of Western Ontario, 2016 - 2020

I am interested in studying how drugs of abuse affect adolescent brain development. I am currently exploring sex differences in the effects of amphetamine on prefrontal cortex maturation and the role that the Netrin-1/DCC guidance cue system plays in this regard. Currently I am investigating whether manipulating the expression of this guidance cue pathway in selective limbic brain regions could induce protection against drug-induced developmental disruption.  I hope that this research will highlight the importance to consider sex as a biological variable when studying adolescent exposure to drugs of abuse.

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Samuel Richer

M.Sc. Student 

McGill IPN, 2020-2022

B.Sc. – Physiology; McGill University, 2017-2020

After birth, the brain is a much more dynamic and vulnerable organ than many make it seem. Long distance dopaminergic axonal migration to the prefrontal cortex is still occurring in the adolescent brain. I want to understand how experiences in adolescence, particularly stress or exposure to drugs of abuse, impact dopamine axonal growth and adult cognitive and reward processing. My research project is focused on the role of axonal guidance cues and their cognate receptors and involves the combination of behavioral testing and calcium imaging methods in male and female mice.

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Tanya Capolicchio

M.Sc. Student

B.Sc. Honours Psychology with a

specialization in Behavioural Neuroscience



The focus of my current research is to expand on our current knowledge of cannabis-induced psychosis. Specifically, the aim of this research is to investigate the impact of THC exposure during adolescence and how that impacts neuroinflammatory processes in mice and

in interaction with genetic biomarkers. More precisely, investigating if and how THC affects brain development andcognitive function via microRNA regulation of gene expression. If I am not in thelab I’m cooking and eating, or on a mountain (also eating).

Members Lab Pictures

Lab Alumni

PDF                           Years

Daniel Hoops                      2016-2019   

Santiago Cuesta                   2015-2018

Esther Del Cid                      2015-2016

Michael Verwey                    2011-2016

Colleen Manitt                      2009-2014 

Cassandre Labelle-Dumais      2006-2009 

Graduate Students:

Student       Degree      Years

Christina Popescu      M.Sc.     2018 -2020 

Daniel Vosberg.        Ph.D.      2015 -2018

Sandra Yogendran    M.Sc.      2013 - 2015 

Lauren Reynolds        Ph.D.     2012 - 2018

Angelica Torres.       Ph.D.      2012 - 2017 

Matthew PokinkoF     M.Sc.     2012 - 2014

Mark Daubaras.       M.Sc.      2010 - 2012

Conrad Eng.           M.Sc.    2010 - 2012

Meagan Auger        M.Sc.    2010 - 2012

Jessica Argento        M.Sc.    2009 - 2011

Alanna Grant          Ph.D      2007 - 2011 

Leora Yetnikoff          Ph.D       2007 - 2011  

Alanna Grant          M.Sc       2005 - 2007 

Leora Yetnikoff        M.Sc       2005 - 2007