Dr. Caras received a B.S. in neuroscience with highest honors and B.S. in biology at Brandeis University, in Waltham, MA. She then took off for the west coast, earning a Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior under the direction of Drs. Edwin Rubel and Eliot Brenowitz, at the University of Washington, in Seattle. After graduating, she moved back east to pursue postdoctoral studies with Dr. Dan Sanes at New York University. Dr. Caras is now thrilled to be a member of the scientific community at the University of Maryland.


  • PhD
    Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Washington
  • BS
    Neuroscience, Brandeis University
  • BS
    Biology, Brandeis University

The ability to improve and refine sensory facilities with practice - a process known as perceptual learning - is critical for the acquisition of a variety of complex behaviors, including speech and language. The fundamental importance of perceptual learning in shaping our day-to-day actions and perceptions makes it of vital interest to determine how training-based improvements are implemented in the brain.  Dr. Caras explores this issue by measuring and manipulating the activation of neural circuits in freely-moving, behaving animals, with a primary focus on plasticity in auditory and top-down modulatory networks. Her laboratory employs a number of advanced approaches, including wireless recordings from multichannel electrode arrays, optogenetics, targeted infusions of pharmacological agents, quantitative animal behavior, and neuroanatomical tracing.

Research Methods
Animal behavior
Auditory Brainstem Response Measurements
Neuronal Tracing
Neural Recording Telemetry
Psychophysical Test
Pharmacological Manipulations
Optogenetic Manipulations
Viral Transfection
Research Interests
Auditory neuroscience
Brain Plasticity
Cognitive Neuroscience
Learning and Memory
Neural circuits
Neuronal Activity
Sensory Processing
Frontal Cortex
Hearing loss

Current Students

Dr. Melissa Caras, Assistant Professor of Biology, sitting in an office.
Biology-Psychology Building Room 3220
Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
mcaras [at] umd.edu