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Lab Members of LOCI

Carrie McDonald, Ph.D., ABPP/CN

Professor of Psychiatry and Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences


Dr. Carrie McDonald is a Professor of Psychiatry and at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist.  She is the PI of the LOCI within the Center for Multimodal Imaging and Genetics and is an active member of the UCSD Epilepsy Surgical Management Team.  Her primary research is focused on using multimodal imaging to characterize cognitive networks in patients with epilepsy, brain tumors, and neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. McDonald is Co-Chair of ENIGMA-Epilepsy—an international consortium of 24 epilepsy centers whose goal is to combine clinical, imaging, and genetic data to answer questions related to the neurobiology of different epilepsy syndromes.





Alena Stasenko, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow


Alena received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program, under Dr. Tamar Gollan’s mentorship in the area of language production, bilingualism, and aging. Alena seeks to expand this line of work to understand the effects of bilingualism on cognition and its underlying neurobiology in epilepsy and other neurosurgical populations. The main goal is to improve language assessment and clinical language mapping of the growing number of multilingual surgical patients. Alena is also broadly interested in cognitive reserve and neuroplasticity, as well as determining which variables best predict post-surgical outcomes in epilepsy so that we can preserve essential cognitive function with a precision medicine approach.




Erik Kaestner, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow


Erik Kaestner is a researcher focusing on multi-modal approaches to characterizing neural function in patients with epilepsy. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), studying under Eric Halgren on the study of using intracranial electrophysiology. His postdoctoral work with Carrie McDonald has focused on understanding the effects of epilepsy on the brain and cognitive function. His research direction is now turning toward using this experience to understand how epilepsy treatment via neurosurgery affects cognitive function. He is the recipient of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program from the National Science Foundation and is currently a fellow in the T32 Fellowship in Biological Psychiatry at UCSD.




Sanam J. Lalani, Ph.D.

Neuropsychologist


Dr. Sanam Lalani is a clinical neuropsychologist trained to treat patients across the lifespan with a wide range of medical and neurological conditions. Clinically, she is interested in continuity of treatment following neuropsychological assessment. Her research explores the cognitive and behavioral consequences of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). As a member of the LOCI during her postdoctoral fellowship, she investigated pattern separation ability in TLE.  She completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Brigham Young University and residency at VA Northern California Health Care System, both with specialization in neuropsychology. She then went on to complete her two-year postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at the Epilepsy Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). 




Anny Reyes, M.S., M.A.

Doctoral Candidate at the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program 


Anny Reyes is a NINDS/NIH NRSA F31 Fellow and doctoral candidate in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology focusing on neuropsychology. Her doctoral research is focused on identifying individual differences (e.g., demographic, cultural, health-related) that can alter the brain’s vulnerability to pathology and influence the relationship between brain pathology and clinical phenotypes in patients with epilepsy. Specifically, she is interested in understanding why some individuals with focal epilepsy demonstrate generalized cognitive impairment whereas others demonstrate relatively normal cognitive profiles, despite similar clinical features. The goal of her doctoral dissertation is to identify the neuroanatomical correlates that are associated with different cognitive phenotypes in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) in an effort to better understand the heterogeneity in cognitive impairment that is found in this clinical population. Anny is also interested in examining the health disparities associated with the diagnoses and treatments of different epilepsy disorders and their related comorbidities. 





Daniel Asay, B.S.

Neuroimaging Research Associate

Daniel did his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Statistics. He is interested in the development of fMRI data analytics tools and integrating those tools into a clinical workflow. He is planning to apply to graduate school in Fall 2021 with a start date in Fall 2022. Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn.








Johnny Rao

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Johnny Rao is currently a Senior at UCSD majoring in Microbiology with a minor in Computer Science. He will be continuing his studies at UCSD in the Biology BS/MS continuous program working on his Master's thesis at the LOCI lab. He is interested in integrating computer programming and novel data science techniques into the traditional biology lab settings and to use the growing potential of computers to better our knowledge in biology.