He is Professor of Research of the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) at the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante. His research career has been developed in the United States (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York) and in Spain (Hospital “Ramón y Cajal” and CSIC -Instituto Cajal and Institute of Neurosciences-).
Since 1990, JL works on the structure and function of glutamate receptors, the most important signaling system in the brain. JL was the first to describe the existence in central neurons of kainate receptors, demonstrating that these proteins form functional channels in hippocampal neurons, providing tools for their study and describing their fundamental role in the control of neuronal tissue excitability and the epileptogenesis. The discovery that these receptors possess a dual mechanism of signaling opened new prospects into the functional mechanisms of ionotropic glutamate receptors. Likewise, his research has led to the identification of several components of the synaptic proteome. More recently, his interest has focused on elucidating how the altered activity of specific neural circuits leads to behavioral changes related to depression, anxiety or autism.
Lerma is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), Europaea Academy; of the European Brain Alliance (EDAB) and the editorial committees of several journals (Neuron, Frontiers in Neuroscience, Neuroscience Bulletin …). He has been President of the PanEuropeo Committee of the International Organization for Brain Research (IBRO) and of the Spanish Society of Neurosciences (SENC). From 2007 to 2016, he was Director of the Neuroscience Institute (CSIC-UMH), where he coordinates the Severo Ochoa Excellence Program. He is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience magazine and Secretary General of FENS (Federation of European Neuroscience Societies).