Alexandra Alario

Alexandra Alario, PhD student, neuroscience

Tackles treatment-resistant depression

“I am nominating Alex for her contribution to the field of neuroscience because her work bridges the gap between research and medicine, by working with treatment resistant populations within the hospital to better understand therapies in treating depression.” – Angela Richardson, PhD student, neuroscience

Hometown: Tomball, Texas

Faculty mentor/advisor: Mark Niciu, MD, PhD, assistant professor, psychiatry, and Nick Trapp, MD, assistant professor, psychiatry, Carver College of Medicine

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience, expected graduation 2025

Please describe your research: My research focuses on interventions for treatment-resistant depression, such as ketamine and transcranial magnetic stimulation. I want to understand how these treatments modulate the excitability of the brain and how this relates to treatment response. The ultimate goal is to predict which patients will have a beneficial response to treatment.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? With this work, I hope to find predictors of treatment response to interventions for depression. This would allow patients to receive the most efficacious treatment for them personally, reducing the time, money, and energy often spent on multiple treatments in search of the best one. My hope is that we can reduce the psychiatric illness burden with personalized treatments.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was involved with research as soon as I came to the University of Iowa. I knew that I wanted to do my PhD here because of the high level of research and the collaborative environment. The faculty was and continues to be extremely welcoming and patient as I go through my PhD journey.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Through my research at the University of Iowa, I have been fortunate to interact with patients and care providers. This has allowed me to understand patient experiences and has motivated me to learn more about how psychiatric treatments modulate the brain to optimize treatment outcomes.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduation, I want to teach neuroscience and psychiatry at the university level. My goal is to pursue more advancements in psychiatry to make treatments more efficacious for patients.

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