Marena Manierka is a doctoral candidate in Integrative Neurosciences. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Toronto, close to her rural Ontario home, Marena moved to Reno to pursue her interest in autism research. Her major focus is in trying to understand the role of inflammation in the pathophysiology of autism, using a combination of methods to examine how physical changes to the brain can lead to the behavioral changes associated with autism. At the cellular level, post-mortem brain tissue from individuals with autism shows signs of active inflammation in glial cells, which may lead to changes in the health and maintenance of nearby neurons. At the whole-brain level, individuals with autism show signs of abnormal white matter structures that may be related to inflammatory damage to brain tracts. Understanding how these biological differences are related to the cognitive features of autism is key to developing new therapies and treatments for this disorder.
When she’s not in the laboratory, Marena works on the University campus as an advisor to undergraduate students or is home walking her two dogs.