Faculty Profile: Dr. Christa McIntyre Rodriguez
Dr. Christa McIntyre Rodriguez (Will need new link) earned her undergraduate degree at American University in Washington, D.C., where she had a soccer scholarship. She originally wanted to be a fiction writer and started taking psychology courses to better understand the human psyche. McIntyre Rodriguez took a psychobiology class and became hooked. At the time, she was working part time with kids who had autism. “It was like everything came together when I was working with these fascinating and inspiring kids while finding satisfying, mechanistic answers in my class,” she said.
As a graduate student at the University of Virginia, she worked on learning and memory research, including the interactions of multiple memory systems. She explored how areas of the brain contribute to different kinds of memories and how they interact. She also became interested in maladaptive behaviors including compulsive behaviors and conditioned memories in cases like post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and traumatic memories.
“Everything we experience leaves a mark on the brain,” she said. “Sometimes those marks protect us from repeating our mistakes and finding ourselves in the same dangerous situation again. Sometimes they are so disturbing that they can lead to pathologies such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. I’m working to understand how emotionally arousing memories affect the brain.”
McIntyre Rodriguez completed her postdoctoral work at the University of California, Irvine where she researched the influence of the amygdala on synaptic plasticity in other areas of the brain.
“When I came to UT Dallas and the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, my colleagues really opened the door for me to use my research in a different, more translational way that could benefit people” she said. “We’re now trying to use what we’ve learned about these systems in the brain that facilitate long-term memory storage and synaptic plasticity, in order to reverse psychological pathologies.”
McIntyre Rodriguez teaches laboratory methods in neuroscience, the neurobiology of learning and memory, and systems neuroscience courses in BBS. She is the program head for the undergraduate neuroscience program, and the associate program head for the cognition and neuroscience graduate program.
“I’m really proud of our undergraduate neuroscience program, which in just eight years has gone from having 200 students to more than 600,” McIntyre Rodriguez said. “This increase can be credited to an interesting subject and the quality of our faculty, including those who developed the program, Dr. Tres Thompson (Will need new link) and the late Dr. Larry Cauller.”