Trainee Spotlight

Leanna Hernandez

Dr. Leanna Hernandez is a neuroscientist investigating how genetic and environmental factors impact neurodevelopmental trajectories and predispose to pediatric-onset psychiatric disorders. Working with Drs. Andrew Fuligni and Michael Gandal in the Semel Institute, Dr. Hernandez conducts multidisciplinary translational research at the intersection of human neuroimaging, behavior, and genomics. Her postdoctoral work is funded by a NIH-Blueprint D-SPAN Award (K00) and focuses on understanding how genetic risk for immune and sleep disorders affects structural brain development in children and is related to longitudinal change in psychiatric symptoms across the transition to adolescence. Her most recent work on the genetic architecture of childhood sleep disturbance was awarded the Richard Todd Award for the most outstanding abstract in the category of Child Psychiatric Disorders at the World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics Annual Meeting in 2020.

Prior to beginning her postdoctoral appointment, Dr. Hernandez earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA under the mentorship of Drs. Mirella Dapretto and Daniel Geschwind. Her dissertation work characterized mechanisms of neurobiological heterogeneity in ASD, focusing on the effects of genetic risk and sex-differences in male and female youth. This work leveraged genetic, neuroimaging, and clinical data collected through UCLA’s Center for Autism Research and Treatment and the multi-site Gender Exploration of Neurogenetics and Development to Advance Autism Research (GENDAAR) study. Her graduate work was funded by a Eugene V. Cota Robles Fellowship, a pre-doctoral fellowship in UCLA’s Neurobehavioral Genetics Training Program, the UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, and an NIH-Blueprint D-SPAN F99 Award.

Dr. Hernandez has contributed to the publication of over 30 research articles in the field of childhood neuropsychiatric research, including work in Molecular Psychiatry, Translational Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and Neuropsychopharmacology. The long-term goal of her research program is to contribute to the development of biologically informed interventions targeted to children and adolescents at high-risk for developing mental illness.

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