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 (with tenure) 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 Program. 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.


Michael Butler, Ph.D. (Research Scientist)  

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 in the fields of ingestive behavior (food intake/energy balance) and neuroendocrinology. Toward the end of my graduate training I worked on a project investigating the impact of estrogens on microglial responses to a high fat diet. Shortly after starting that project, I became fascinated by glial cells and brain-immune system communications and how nutrition and other modifiable risk factors can impact brain health and function. In 2019, I began my postdoctoral research at The Ohio State University in the Barrientos lab studying the role of diet and nutrition on neuroimmune signaling and memory impairment in aged rats, with an initial focus on microglia. At the beginning of 2023, I transitioned into a Research Scientist position in the Barrientos lab and am currently leading several projects looking at the role of peripheral immune cells, specifically T cells, in mediating diet-induced neuroinflammation and memory deficits in rodent models of both aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of work, I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, running, camping, and spending time with family and friends.

Bryan Alvarez, B.S. (Ph.D. Student, NGP)

I received my A.A. from community college and then my B.A. from California State University in biological psychology. I am broadly interested in learning, decision making, and memory. Specifically, the underlying glia mechanisms that mediate cognitive deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders & diseases, along with the longitudinal progression of pathology. After my PhD, I am leaning towards an equal mix of teaching & research within academia, while finding my own niche in scientific communication. In my free time, I enjoy talking to my pup, playing table-top games, reading manga, and regretting being an extroverted-introvert.



Jade Blackwell, M.S. (Ph.D. Student, MCDB)

Jade is a PhD Candidate in the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology program here at Ohio State. She is originally from England, but has been in the United States for 10 years now! Ever since anatomy and physiology class in high school, Jade has been fascinated by the human body and how it adapts in response to different stimuli, in particular exercise. This led to an undergraduate career as a student-athlete at St. Ambrose University, Iowa, where science and soccer drove her educational endeavors off the field as she earned Bachelor degrees in Exercise Science & Psychology. Here is where Jade found her intrigue for research and the scientific method as she had the opportunity to design a senior thesis that assessed cardiorespiratory fitness under different environmental conditions. During this time, personal experiences changed Jade’s research trajectory and she found herself wanting to make a difference in neurodegenerative research. Jade combined her personal and professional passions and earned at M.A. in Exercise Physiology from the UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!). Her research here looked at the effects of sedentary behavior on cerebrovascular function. The techniques learned here laid the foundation for Jade’s doctoral work, which began at the University of Arizona (#beardown) where she explored the effects of menopause on the cerebral microcirculation in the presence and absence of Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model, with a focus on elucidating the role of ion channels present in arteriolar endothelial cells in control of localized increases in local perfusion induced by neuronal activity. This work is an example of Jade’s goal to have an impact on the world of neurodegenerative diseases and also in the Barrientos Lab as she works to determine the role of CRMP3 as a potential target for ameliorating dystrophic dendrites and cognitive deficits in a mouse model of AD.


Sabrina Mackey-Alfonso, M.S. (Ph.D. Candidate, NGP/MSTP)

Hi! I am an MD/PhD student here at OSU. I am originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience with a minor in Visual Arts from Johns Hopkins University. Since the senior year of high school I have been interested in Alzheimer’s Disease. I knew from that moment I was going to get my PhD in neuroscience with a focus on AD, and here I am doing exactly that! My project in the Barrientos Lab is on the effect of CRMP3, a gene that has been shown to regulate synaptic plasticity and spine growth in the hippocampus, on cognitive decline and the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. My love for the MD came in college when I learned of the potential for translational research and for discovering new avenues from observing the disease process in patients. My interest has grown exponentially since starting medical school. I have come to fall in love with the art of medicine. Continuing my advocacy work from undergrad, I work to improve the medical education on caring for survivors of sexual assault and Intimate Partner Violence. In my free time I like to check out new breweries and happy hours with my friends, host wine and paint nights, sing with UltraSound A Cappella, Autocross with the Autocross Club at the Ohio State University, cook, and cuddle my adorable kitten Jiji (named after one of my favorite movies, Kiki’s Delivery Service).


James DeMarsh, B.S. (Senior Research Technician)

Hi! My name is James DeMarsh and I’m the senior lab technician in the Barrientos Lab. I began my work in the Barrientos Lab my sophomore year as a research assistant when my interest in the aging brain and memory from my favorite classes coincided with this lab’s research goals. I graduated from The Ohio State University in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience and continue to work within the lab as a technician. My passion for our work in the Barrientos lab grew with my interest in lifestyle changes and their effects on the aging brain and memory as well as their implications in neuroinflammation and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. I hope to continue learning valuable laboratory skills and to pursue a career in science while working towards graduate school for neuroscience.

Andrew Sanchez, B.S. (Discovery PREP Scholar)

Coming soon.

Menaz Bettes (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hi, I’m Menaz Bettes! I am an undergraduate majoring in neuroscience, and I am so grateful to be a part of the Barrientos Lab. During my first year at OSU, I knew I wanted to get involved with neuroscience research in order to apply what I was learning in the classroom & gain unique experience. My time in this lab has given me an amazing glimpse into scientific research by allowing me to assist with current projects and even pursue independent research of my own. All of these great opportunities have encouraged me to pursue a more research-focused career. I plan on attending graduate school in neuroscience or psychology, and I am eager to keep learning from my wonderful lab colleagues during my remaining time at Ohio State.


Haanya Ijaz (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hello! My name is Haanya Ijaz, and I am currently an undergraduate in the Neuroscience program. I’ve been passionate about neuroscience and the brain since high school, so I’m excited to be able to delve further into my passions by being a part of the Barrientos Lab team! Some of my particular interests include memory, which is why I was particularly drawn to the focus on neuroimmunology and its ties with memory. I am currently on the pre-med track, but am highly interested in pursuing research or possibly an MD-PhD. I am excited to continue to work in the lab and gain knowledge and experience!


Emmanuel “Gus” Scaria (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hi, my name is Emmanuel Scaria and I’m a neuroscience major here at Ohio State. When I decided I wanted to do research my freshman year, I gravitated toward Dr. Barrientos’ lab particularly because of the CRMP3 project, which I found to be especially interesting because of the lack of information available regarding its implications with Alzheimer’s and the possibility of discovering more about it. Working in this lab has been an excellent opportunity to expand my knowledge of neuroscience and deepen my understanding for the intricacies of research. Once on the path to pursue an MD, the time I’ve spent in lab has influenced me into pursuing a more research focused route, like a PhD or an MD/PhD. 

Allegra Tannoury (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Coming Soon.

Barrientos Lab Alumni

Stephanie Muscat, Ph.D.
Years in Lab: 2019-2023
Position in Lab: PhD Graduate Student (BSGP)
Where’d they go next? Instructor, Neuroscience Dept, OSU
Daniela Jimenez-Harrison, Ph.D.
Years in Lab: 2022-2023
Position in Lab: PhD Graduate Student (NGP/MSTP)
Where’d they go next? Back to Med School (Year 3)
Brigitte González Olmo, Ph.D.
Years in Lab: 2019-2023
Position in Lab: PhD Graduate Student (Anatomy & Neuroscience)
Where’d they go next? Post-doc at Rutgers (Bocarsly Lab)
Tam Quach, Ph.D.
Years in Lab: 2019-2023
Position in Lab: Senior Scientist
Where’d they go next? Keep us updated!
Nicholas P. Deems, M.S.
Years in Lab: 2019-2022
Position in Lab: Graduate Student (NGP)
Where’d they go next? Territory Manager at Takara Bio
Ashton Taylor
Years in Lab: 2021-2022
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA
Where’d they go next? Post-bacc IRTA at NIH/NIA.
Albert Williams-Medina
Years in Lab: 2021-2022
Position in Lab: Research Associate
Where’d they go next? MD/PhD (MSTP) at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Miriam Akomeah  
Years in Lab: 2018-2021
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA
Where’d they go next? Please update us!
Mitchell Foster  
Years in Lab: 2018-2021
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA
Where’d they go next? Please update us!
Nashali Massa
Years in Lab: 2020-2021
Position in Lab: OSU PREP Scholar
Where’d they go next? PhD Neuroscience program at Mayo Clinic (Arizona)
Debbie Olagbenro
Years in Lab: 2018-2021
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA
Where’d they go next? PhD Neuroscience program UVA
Marissa Ruzga
Years in Lab: 2019-2021
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA/Honors thesis
Where’d they go next? PhD Neuro program Univ of Maine/Cold Springs Harbor
Kendall Theil
Years in Lab: 2018-2019
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA
Where’d they go next? Please update us!
Nick Hackstedde
Years in Lab: 2018-2019
Position in Lab: Undergrad RA
Where’d they go next? Please update us!