Lab Members

Dr. Ruth M. Barrientos, Ph.D. (PI)
Associate Professor
Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research
Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, and Neuroscience

Dr. Barrientos grew up in the Washington, DC area. She completed her B.S. in Psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She then trained jointly with Dr. Larry Rothblat in the area of behavioral neuroscience at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, and Dr. Esther Sternberg in the area of neuroimmunology at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD to earn her Ph.D. She then completed her post-doctoral training at the University of Colorado Boulder under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Maier and Dr. Jerry Rudy where she honed her research expertise in the area of behavioral neuroimmunology with an emphasis on the aging brain. Dr. Barrientos then transitioned into a Research Assistant Professor position and was later promoted to Research Associate Professor at CU Boulder before being recruited to The Ohio State University.  She is now Associate Professor in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health in the College of Medicine. She is also a faculty member of the Chronic Brain Injury Discovery Themes Initiative. Her research aims 1) to uncover the vulnerabilities associated with the aging brain that makes it more susceptible to inflammatory challenges resulting in memory dysfunctions ranging from mild cognitive impairments to Alzheimer’s Disease; and 2) to discover interventions to improve these vulnerabilities and prevent memory degradation. For fun, Dr. Barrientos enjoys spending time with her family, and being outdoors running, hiking, biking, camping, and star gazing.


Tam Quach, Ph.D. (Senior Scientist)

Currently, in the lab of Dr. Barrientos, I use various technologies -from molecular cloning to generating genetic mouse models and gene transfer- to activate intracellular signaling pathways to improve or delay the altered regenerative capacity of the affected neurons in the hippocampus.






Michael Butler, Ph.D. (Post-Doctoral Researcher)  

I grew up in Florida and received my B.S. from Florida State University in 2013. I remained at FSU for my graduate training and received my PhD in neuroscience in 2019. For my graduate research, I initially worked on the intracellular signaling mechanisms of membrane-bound estrogen receptors and their impact on feeding in female rats. Toward the end of my graduate training I started a project investigating the impact of estradiol on high fat diet-induced neuroinflammation. Shortly after starting that project I became fascinated by glial cells and neuroinflammation and how nutrition and overall lifestyle can impact brain health and function. Thus, I decided to pursue postdoctoral training in neuroimmunology at The Ohio State University. In the Barrientos Lab I am interested in the diet project and investigating the role saturated fatty acids play in the aged brain and how this changes with high fat diet consumption. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with family and friends, running, hiking, and playing with my dog.


Nicholas P. Deems, B.S. (Graduate Student)

Hi! I’m a first-year graduate student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. My current projects in the Barrientos lab focus on the impact of glial cells on synaptic density and function after surgery in aged rodents. In my spare time outside of lab, I enjoy woodworking, live music, and reading science fiction.








Brigitte Gonzalez Olmo, B.S. (Graduate Student)

Hi! I’m a PhD student in the Anatomy program, here at OSU.  I’m from Puerto Rico and I got my bachelor’s degree in Medical Microbiology at The University of Puerto Rico.  When I took my Anatomy courses I immediately fell in love with anatomy, and mostly with the Nervous System. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to understand, do research, and discover (hopefully) something about our Nervous System. I love how wonderful and mysterious our brains are! I decided to apply to a PhD in Anatomy and to do a minor in Neuroscience, combining both of my passions. My research project focuses on how a high fat diet consumption evokes exaggerated neuroinflammation causing impairments in working spatial memory in aged rodents.  In my free time I like to go out, read books, watch old movies, and cuddle with my beautiful cat Elektra.



Stephanie Muscat, B.S. (Graduate Student)

Hi, I’m Stephanie Muscat, a PhD student in the Biomedical Sciences program here at Ohio State. I’m originally from New Jersey, and I completed my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina. As an undergrad, I was involved with several different research projects; my first experience with academic research was in an organic chemistry lab, where I worked to synthesize a variety of molecules with intended use as vaccine adjuvants. I then transitioned into the Smith neurobiology lab at USC, where I worked on a project titled ‘Role of dynein in regenerative axon growth control,’ which aimed to elucidate some of the mechanisms underlying neuronal regeneration in the peripheral nervous system. In May 2019 I moved to Columbus to begin my PhD at OSU, and subsequently joined the Barrientos lab, where I am excited to merge my research interests in neuroscience, immunology, and aging in the context of memory and cognitive decline.



Miriam Akomeah (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hi! I’m Miriam Akomeah. I am a second-year undergraduate at The Ohio State University, studying radiological sciences, specifically sonography. My interest in research has always been a pivotal aspect in my academic career. Resultantly, when I read about Dr. Barrientos’ research, I saw this as an opportunity to broaden my knowledge and skills of research. Dr. Barrientos’ research is the start of my long and rewarding journey towards groundbreaking work. I am honored to be a part of such a remarkable group of people and cannot wait to grow exponentially with the hands-on experience of neuroimmunology on memory formation and aging.




Mitchell Foster (Undergraduate Research Assistant)
Hi, my name is Mitchell Foster. I’m a second-year Neuroscience Major looking to specialize in Systems and Behavior. I was drawn to Dr. Barrientos’ research because of my affinity for behavioral studies, as I have worked in a behavioral lab prior to meeting Dr. Barrientos. I’m currently looking to apply to medical school and become a physician, regardless of the specialty. I’m thrilled to further my knowledge of memory and inflammatory responses in the brain. I’m very honored to work with Dr. Barrientos and contribute my part to her research!



Debbie Olagbenro (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

My name is Deborah Olagbenro, but I go by Debbie. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and immigrated to Ohio at the age of 7 with my family. I am a third-year neuroscience major with a specialization in behavioral neuroscience. I love traveling and I hope to visit at least one country on each continent before I die.







Marissa Ruzga (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hi, I’m Marissa Ruzga. I am a fourth year biomedical engineering major and neuroscience minor from Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m interested in applications of regenerative medicine and immunology in neuroscience. I am especially looking forward to developing a better understanding of the effects of aging on the immune reactions in the brain through working in the Barrientos Lab. After graduating, I aim to attend graduate school and earn a PhD. in biomedical engineering. Outside of class and lab, I am a member of the OSU Biomedical Engineering Society, and enjoy reading sci-fi books and spending time with friends and family.

Omar Zayed (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Bio Coming Soon