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, M.S. (Graduate Student)

Hi! I’m a 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. (Ph.D. Candidate)

Hi! I’m a PhD candidate in the Anatomy program, here at OSU.  I’m from Puerto Rico and I received my bachelor’s degree in Medical Microbiology from 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 contextual, cued, and 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. (Ph.D. Candidate)

Hi, I’m Stephanie Muscat, a PhD candidate  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.


Sabrina Mackey-Alfonso, B.S. (MSTP Student)

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).


Ashton Taylor, B.S. (Research Assistant)

Hi, my name is Ashton Taylor! I recently graduated with a B.S., majoring in neuroscience from the Ohio State University. My curriculum over the years has led me to develop a curiosity towards the vast biochemical processes underlying neurological disease. The privilege of joining Dr. Barrientos and her talented team will assist me in further investigating the onset, progression, and clinical implications of Alzheimer’s disease and the aging brain. Prior to the Barrientos lab, I spent the summer of 2021 in a lab identifying small molecules that inhibit growth in prostate and breast cancer cells. Although my work there was not specific to the neuroscience field, it helped me understand the role research plays in the improvement of clinical care. I hope to sharpen my knowledge and skills in the research field during a gap year before applying to MD/PhD combined degree programs.




Menaz Bettes (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hi, I’m Menaz Bettes! I am currently an undergraduate majoring in neuroscience, and I am very excited to work in Dr. Barrientos’ lab and be a part of this amazing team. Upon starting my first year at OSU, I knew I wanted to get involved with neuroscience research in order to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom and dive deeper into behavioral neuroscience and neuroimmunology. I am looking to apply to medical school after undergrad, which is why I was drawn to the practicality and clinical applications of Dr. Ba`rrientos’ work on aging in the brain as it relates to memory and cognitive decline. I am honored to be able to learn from Dr. Barrientos and her colleagues, and I look forward to gaining invaluable experience with various research methods and techniques during my time in lab.



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. 





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!



James DeMarsh (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Hi, my name is James DeMarsh and I’m a behavioral neuroscience major at Ohio State University. I first began pursuing research in my sophomore year after taking several neuroscience research classes that peaked my interest in the field. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work at the Barrientos Lab as neurodegenerative diseases are a fascinating subject and Alzheimer’s disease and the aging brain is an area of research that I believe deserves as much attention as possible. The Barrientos Lab is a great opportunity for me to experience what being part of a research team means and with extraordinary researchers and graduate students to work for I’ve learned many laboratory skills and gained valuable experiences. I hope to use my experiences and time in this lab to pursue a graduate education and work towards a PhD in the field of neuroscience to continue furthering research in the field.


Barrientos Lab Alumni

Name                                 Years in Lab     Position in Lab     What they’re doing now

Albert Williams-Medina  2021-2022          Research Associate    MSTP Albert Einstein CoM
Miriam Akomeah              2018-2021          Undergrad RA             Ohio State Univ
Mitchell Foster                  2018-2021          Undergrad RA             Ohio State Univ
Nashalie Massa                2020-2021         PREP Scholar               PhD Student Mayo Clinic
Debbie Olagbenro            2018-2021           Undergrad RA            PREP Scholar at OSU
Marissa Ruzga                   2019-2021          Undergrad RA            PhD student Univ of Maine
Kendall Theil                     2018-2019          Undergrad RA             Please update us!
Nick Hackstedde              2018-2019           Undergrad RA            Please update us!