Joaquin N. Lugo, Jr., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
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Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Pediatrics-Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, 2010

Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, University of South Carolina-Columbia, 2004

B.S., Neuroscience, Baylor University, 1999


Dr. Lugo joined the Baylor faculty in 2010. He completed his postdoctoral research under the guidance in the Cain Foundation Laboratories in the department of Pediatrics-Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology with a focus on behavioral neuroscience from the University of South Carolina-Columbia in 2004. In 2016, Dr. Lugo was made a Fellow of the American Epilepsy Society. Dr. Lugo enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons, running, and other outdoor activities.

Academic Interests and Research

Interests: Developmental epilepsy, the relationship between epilepsy and autism, and neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory in zebrafish larvae.

I investigate how seizures during different periods of neurodevelopment result in long-term changes in learning and memory, social behavior, and repetitive/stereotyped behaviors. I also investigate the neural mechanisms that mediate these changes through molecular and imaging techniques. In particular, I am examining how seizures induce changes in the mTOR and MAPK signaling pathways and how these changes lead to alterations in potassium channels and other synaptic proteins.

My interest in examining behavioral changes is also why I am examining the link between autism and epilepsy. Children with epilepsy have a high comorbidity with autism but the underlying mechanism is not known. I plan to investigate how seizures could lead to autistic-like behavior in mice.

My third research question is whether zebrafish larvae can be used as an animal model to investigate the impact of early-life seizures on behavior. Zebrafish have been greatly used in genetics and are increasingly be used in in vivo imaging studies. By examining whether seizures induce behavioral changes in zebrafish I will be able to examine the neurocircuitry changes underlying the behavioral alterations through numerous imaging and genetic techniques. Furthermore, since there are few tests to examine behaviors such as learning and memory in zebrafish my lab will also be creating and validating new behavioral assays.

PEER-REVIEWED SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (*Indicates Dr. Lugo as the corresponding author. # indicates Baylor graduate student. † indicates Baylor undergraduate student)

  1. Binder, M. S. # & Lugo, J. N. * (In Press). NS-Pten knockout mice show sex- and age-specific differences in ultrasonic vocalizations. Brain and Behavior.
  2. Hodges, S.L. #, Nolan, S.O. #, Taube, J.H., Lugo, J.N. * (In Press). Adult Fmr1 knockout mice present with deficiencies in hippocampal interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α expression. NeuroReport.
  3. Nolan, S.O. #, Reynolds, C. D. †, Smith, G. D. #, Holley, A. J. #, Escobar, E. †, Chandler, M. A. †, Volquardsen, M. †, Jefferson, T. †, Pandian, A. †, Smith, T. †, Nolan, S.O. #, Huebschman, J.L. †, and Lugo, J. N. * (In Press). Deletion of Fmr1 results in sex-specific changes in behavior. Brain and Behavior.
  4. Chernoff, N., Hill D,J., Diggs, D.L., Faison, B.D., Francis, B.M., Lang, J.R., Larue, M.M., Le, T.T., Loftin, K.A., Lugo, J.N., Schmid, J.E., Winnik, W.M. (2017). A critical review of the postulated role of the non-essential amino acid, β-N-methylamino-L-alanine, in neurodegenerative disease in humans. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2017;20(4):1-47. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2017.1297592.
  5. Reynolds, C. D. †, Nolan, S.O. #, Huebschman, J.L. †, Hodges, S.L. #, Lugo, J.N. * (2017). Early-life status epilepticus acutely impacts select quantitative and qualitative features of neonatal vocalization behavior: Spectrographic and temporal characterizations in C57BL/6 mice. Epilepsy Behav. 2017 May 30;72:58-62. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2017.04.025.
  6. Hodges, S. L. #, Nolan, S. O. #, Reynolds, C. D. †, Lugo, J. N. * (2017). Spectral and temporal properties of calls reveal deficits in ultrasonic vocalizations of adult Fmr1 knockout mice. Behavioral Brain Research. May 26;332:50-58. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2017.05.052.
  7. Lugo, J.N. *, Thompson, M. H, †, Huber, P., Smith, G. #, Kwon, R.Y. (2017). Neuron subset-specific Pten deletion induces abnormal skeletal activity in mice. Experimental Neurology. May;291:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2017.02.002.
  8. Smith, G. D. #, Ahmed, N. †, Arbuckle, E. #, Lugo, J.N. * (2017). Early-life status epilepticus induces long-term deficits in anxiety and spatial learning in mice. International Journal of Epilepsy.
  9. Reynolds, C.D.†, Nolan. S.O.#, Jefferson. T.†, Lugo. J.N.* (2016). Sex-specific and genotype-specific differences in vocalization development in FMR1 knockout mice. Neuroreport. Dec 14;27(18):1331-1335.
  10. Smith, G.D. #, White, J. †, & Lugo, J. N.* (2016). Superimposing Status Epilepticus on Neuron Subset-Specific PTEN Haploinsufficient and Wild Type Mice Results in Long-term Changes in Behavior. Scientific Reports.Nov 7;6:36559. doi: 10.1038/srep36559.
  11. Reynolds, C. #, Smith, G. D. †, Jefferson, T. S. #, Lugo, J. N. * (2016). Early-life seizures produce a sex-specific suppression of ultrasonic vocalizations in neonatal mice. Epilepsia. Sep;57(9):1377-85. doi: 10.1111/epi.13450.
  12. Smith, G. D. #, Gao, N. †, Lugo, J. N. * (2016). Kv4.2 knockout mice display learning and memory deficits in the Lashley maze. F1000 Research. 5:2456. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.9664.2. eCollection 2016.
  13. Holley, A. J. # & Lugo, J. N*. (2016). Effects of an Acute Seizure on Associative Learning and Memory. Epilepsy and Behavior, Jan;54:51-7.

Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography:

Recent Ph.D. Graduates:

Andrew Holley, Baylor University

Current Ph.D. Students:

Suzanne Nolan, University of Illinois, Urbana
Matthew Binder, Regis University
Samantha Hodges, Texas Christian University
Paige Womble

Courses taught at Baylor:

  • PSY/NSC 3320 - Learning and Behavior
  • PSY/NSC 4330 - Behavioral Neuroscience

Graduate Student Recruitment:

I am currently looking for graduate students to join my lab in 2019. There are 3 ways to apply for a position in my lab. Each program has difficult graduate level curriculum so apply to the one that best fits your interests and goals. Do e-mail me if you have questions. E-mail:

  1. Graduate Program in Psychology
  2. Institute of Biomedical Studies PhD Program
  3. Graduate Biology Program