Maria Canal belongs to the Strategic Research Domain of Neuroscience & Mental Health, within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health.
Her main interest is to understand the processes involved in the development of the mammalian biological clock and to determine the effects of postnatal experience on clock maturation as a model of brain programming and plasticity.
Environmental light is of particular concern in preterm babies exposed to abnormal light conditions (continuous light, unusual light-dark cycles, variable light intensity, etc.) in neonatal intensive care units, since it may affect different aspects of their development such as sleep pattern, circadian rhythms, postnatal weight gain and vision.
Maria’s early work showed that postnatal environmental light has a critical effect on the development of the animal’s behaviour and its responses to light. At present, Maria is combining behavioural studies with investigations of the biochemical and molecular modifications that occur at the level of the brain’s principal clock in order to determine the mechanisms behind the programming of the developing circadian system by light and the consequences of these alterations in future health and wellbeing.
Maria Canal is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, and belongs to the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology in the School of Biological Sciences (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/biology/). Maria is currently Programme Director for the Neuroscience, MSci Neuroscience, Masters in Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience & Psychology degrees.
After obtaining her degree in Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona (Spain), Maria went on doing a PhD at the same university. She obtained a European Recognition award for her thesis, which involved the University of Heidelberg (Germany) and studied the long-lasting effects of early light experience on the behaviour of rodents. She then left the University to secure a position in the pharmaceutical industry, as Assistant R&D Director. Maria returned to academic research in 2004, by gaining a post-doctoral Research Associate position at the University of Manchester. In 2006, she was awarded one of the prestigious RCUK Fellowships, which enabled her to establish her own research group, which investigates the development of the circadian system and specifically, the mechanisms behind and consequences of postnatal light experience on future health and wellbeing.