I grew up in Bogota, Colombia where I attended medical school. I particularly enjoyed the basic sciences, including biochemistry, physiology, and pharmacology; therefore, I decided to devote my career to research and teaching. I completed a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of California, Riverside under the guidance of a wonderful mentor, Dr. David A. Johnson. My dissertation work focused on the structure and function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. For my postdoctoral training, I joined the laboratory of another extraordinary mentor, Dr. Adron Harris, at the Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. In Dr. Harris’ lab, I learned electrophysiology techniques and used these to characterize the modulation of GABAA and glutamate ionotropic receptors by alcohol. In 1998, I became a faculty member in the Department of Neurosciences at the UNM School of Medicine where I established a research program on the neurobiology of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Our laboratory uses electrophysiological, histological and behavioral techniques to characterize the effect of developmental alcohol exposure on the function of neuronal circuits in different brain regions, including the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and cerebellum.

Areas of Specialty



Post-Doc, Pharmacology (1996):
University of Colorado HSC
Denver, Colorado

Phd, Biomedical Science (1993):
University of California Riverside
Riverside, California

MD (1987):
Colombian School of Medicine (Universidad El Bosque)
Bogotá, Colombia

Achievements & Awards

  • Lewis Award, Basic Science Teaching, UNM-School of Medicine - 2020
  • Curriculum Committee Award for Excellence in Phase-1 Teaching - 2018-2019
  • Co-Chair, Neuroscience Block, Phase 1 Medical School Curriculum - 2016
  • President, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group-RSA - 2014-2015
  • Scientific Director, NIAAA P50 New Mexico Alcohol Research Center - 2014
  • Board of Directors, Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) - 2013-2017
  • Regents’ Professorship, UNM-School of Medicine - 2013
  • Khatali Award, Basic Science Teaching, UNM-School of Medicine - 2013
  • R37 MERIT Award, NIAAA - 2012.
  • Earl Walker Neuroscience Research Award - 2008
  • Director, Alcohol Research Training in Neurobiology, NIAAA T32 Training Grant - 2007
  • Director, M.D./Ph.D. Program, University of New Mexico School of Medicine - 2005-2011
  • UNM School of Medicine-Teaching award for Phase I of Medical School Curriculum - 2004
  • Dean’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Performance, UNM-School of Medicine - 2002

Key Publications

  • Carta, M., Ariwodola, O.J., Weiner, J.L., and Valenzuela, C.F. Alcohol potently inhibits the kainate receptor-dependent excitatory drive of hippocampal interneurons. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA.  100, 6813-6818, 2003.
  • Carta M, Mameli M, Valenzuela CF. Alcohol enhances GABAergic transmission to cerebellar granule cells via an increase in Golgi cell excitability. J Neurosci. 24, 3746-51, 2004.
  • Mameli M, Carta, M, Partridge LD, Valenzuela CF. Neurosteroid-induced plasticity of immature synapses via retrograde modulation of presynaptic NMDA receptors.  J Neurosci. 25, 2285-2294, 2005.
  • Carta M, Mameli M, Valenzuela CF. Alcohol Potently Modulates Climbing Fiber-to-Purkinje Neuron Synapses: Role of Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors.  J. Neurosci.  26:1906-12, 2006.
  • Botta P, Simões de Souza F, Sangrey T, De Schutter E, Valenzuela CF.  Alcohol Excites Cerebellar Golgi Cells by Inhibiting the Na+/K+ ATPase.  Neuropsychopharmacology  35, 1984-96, 2010.
  • Bird CW, Baculis BC, Mayfield JJ, Chavez GJ, Ontiveros T,  Paine DJ, Marks AJ, Gonzales AL, Ron D, and Valenzuela CF. The BDNF val68met polymorphism modulates how developmental ethanol exposure impacts the hippocampus.  Genes Brain Behav. 2019 Mar;18(3):e12484.




  • English, Spanish


Our research focuses on the mechanisms responsible for the actions of alcohol on neurotransmitter receptors, synaptic transmission and plasticity, with emphasis on the impact of developmental alcohol exposure. My laboratory has characterized the effects of ethanol on neurons from the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum. We use a variety of approaches, including slice electrophysiology, optogenetics, immunohistochemistry, and behavioral assays

Courses Taught

  • Principles of Neurobiology (Biom 509)
  • Neurobiology of Alcoholism (Biom 538)
  • Neuroscience Block for MD students
  • Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Renal Block for MD students