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Sylvana Vilca-Melendez

BSc, MSc

DPhil Student

I am a DPhil Student supervised by Professor Phil Cowen and Dr. Beata Godlewska.

My research aims to use functional magnetic resonance spectroscopy (fMRS) to investigate glutamate neurotransmission in psychiatric conditions. fMRS is a developing technique and so my role has been trying to establish a functional task that will lead to reliable glutamate changes. Though quite challenging, I am passionate about fMRS and believe this technique could lead to interesting discoveries in the future.

Being part of the Clinical Psychopharamcology Group, there is also the intention to incorporate psychopharmacology into my studies. I will be working very closely with Dr. Robert McCutcheon for my PhD project and will investigate how memantine may improve the cognitive effects in schizophrenic patients. Memantine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that modulates glutamate neurotransmission, which makes fMRS a good tool for investigating this drug. 

Prior to my work here, I was a Translational Neuroscience MSc student at Imperial College London. My MSc project was supervised by Dr Malin Uthaug and in collaboration with Imperial's Centre for Psychedelic Research. I used NMR spectroscopy to analyse the biofluids collected from individuals who had inhaled 5-MeO-DMT. This is a powerful psychedelic substance that is in the same family as psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, and DMT. I have a deep passion for understanding psychedelic molecules and how they modulate neurotransmission, I hope that I can one day use the fMRS technique to better understand them.