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

Joaquin N. Lugo, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Graduate Program Director, Ph.D. Program
High Res Photo

Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Graduate Program Director, Ph.D. Program


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

The mission statement of the lab is to improve the quality of life in children with epilepsy, autism, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Interests: Developmental epilepsy, the relationship between epilepsy and autism, and bone comorbidities in epilepsy.

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, MAPK, and Canonical Wnt 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 how seizures during early development impact brain growth and bone growth. We use genetic and chemoconvulant models of epilepsy and determine their bone phenotype in adulthood.

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

  1. Nolan, S.O. #, Hodges, S.L. #, Condon, S.M., Muhammed, I.D.A., Tomac, L.A., Binder, M.S. #, Reynolds, C.D., Lugo, J.N. (2019). High seizure load during sensitive periods of development leads to broad shifts in ultrasonic vocalization behavior in neonatal male and female C57BL/6J mice. Epilepsy Behav. 2019 Apr 22;95:26-33. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.03.037. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Nolan, S.O. #, Jefferson, T.S., Reynolds, C.D., Smith, G.D. #, Holley, A.J. #, Hodges, S.L.#, Lugo, J. N. (2019). Neuronal deletion of phosphatase and tensin homolog results in cerebellar motor learning dysfunction and alterations in intracellular signaling. Neuroreport. 2019 May 22;30(8):556-561. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001241.
  3. Hodges, S. L. #, Reynolds, C. D., Smith, G. D. #, Jefferson, T. S., Gao, N., Morrison, J. B., White, J., Nolan, S. O. #, Lugo, J. N. * (2018). Neuronal subset-specific deletion of Pten results in aberrant Wnt signaling and memory impairments. Brain Res. 1699:100-106. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2018.08.007.
  4. Binder, M. S. #, Hernandez-Zegada, C. J., Potter, C. T., Nolan, S. O#., Lugo, J. N.* (2018). A comparison of the Avisoft (5.2) and Ultravox (2.0) recording systems: Implications for early-life communication and vocalization research. J Neurosci Methods. 309:6-12. doi:0.1016/j.jneumeth.2018.08.015.
  5. Hodges, S. L. # & Lugo, J. N. * (2018). Wnt/β-catenin signaling as a potential target for novel epilepsy therapies. Epilepsy Research.146:9-16. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2018.07.002. Epub 2018 Jul 24. Review.
  6. Hodges, S. L. #, Reynolds, C. D., Smith, G. D. #, Jefferson, T. S., Nolan, S. O. #, Lugo, J. N. * (2018). Molecular interplay between hyperactive mammalian target of rapamycin signaling and Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology in the NS-Pten knockout mouse model. Neuroreport. 29(13):1109-1113. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001081.
  7. Nolan, S.O. & Lugo, J. N.* (2018). Reversal learning paradigm reveals deficits in cognitive flexibility in the Fmr1 knockout male mouse. F1000Res. 2018 Jun 7;7:711. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.14969.1. eCollection 2018.
  8. Frigerio, F., Flynn, C., Han, Y., Lyman, K., Lugo, J. N., Ravizza, T., Ghestem, A., Pitsch, J., Becker, A., Anderson, A. E., Vezzani, A., Chetkovich, D., Bernard, C. (2018). Neuroinflammation alters integrative properties of rat hippocampal pyramidal cells. Molecular Neurobiology. 55(9):7500-7511. doi: 10.1007/s12035-018-0915-1. Epub 2018 Feb 9.
  9. Binder, M. S. # & Lugo, J. N. * (2017). NS-Pten knockout mice show sex- and age-specific differences in ultrasonic vocalizations. Brain and Behavior. 7(11):e00857. 29201556.
  10. 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.

Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography:

Recent Ph.D. Graduates:

Gregory Smith, University of Texas-Austin
Andrew Holley, Baylor University
Suzanne Nolan, University of Illinois, Urbana
Matthew Binder, Regis University
Samantha Hodges, Texas Christian University

Current Ph.D. Students:

Greg Sullens, Mercer University, Georgia Southern University
Paige Womble, Southwestern University
David Narvaiz, Lamar University
Katherine Blandin, Framingham State University
John Reinhart, Indiana University

Courses taught at Baylor:

  • PSY/NSC 3320 - Learning and Behavior
  • PSY/NSC 4317 - Neuroscience Literature
  • PSY/NSC 4330 - Advanced Principles of Neural Science

Graduate Student Recruitment:

I am currently looking for graduate students to join my lab in 2023. 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