Ruth M. Barrientos, Ph.D.

2017

 
 

Dr. Barrientos is a behavioral neuroscientist researching the role of inflammation on cognitive impairments.

Various immune challenges, such as bacterial or viral infections, surgery, and injury produce an inflammatory response in the brain, and often, these responses are adaptive and beneficial. However, when the immune cells of the brain (microglia) are already sensitized, these same immune challenges produce exaggerated and prolonged inflammatory responses in the brain. These pathological levels of inflammation in the hippocampus region of the brain severely inhibit synaptic plasticity processes and lead to impairments in long-term contextual and spatial memory.

Dr. Barrientos’ laboratory has demonstrated that advanced age, and consumption of high-fat/sugar diets independently sensitize microglia and thus increase the vulnerability to memory disruptions following an immune challenge.

Importantly, having a mild cognitive impairment significantly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

The goals of Dr. Barrientos’ research are to characterize the important factors in aging and high fat/sugar diets that sensitize microglia, to understand the mechanisms involved in these responses, and to develop effective interventions to not only prevent, but to reverse the detrimental neurological and cognitive outcomes produced by these immune challenges.


 

Research Interests

Research Assistant Professor

University of Colorado Boulder

Department of Psychology & Neuroscience

Campus Box 345

Boulder, Colorado 80309-0345

Educational Background

Department of Psychology

The George Washington University, Washington, DC

George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Professional Experience

2012-Present: Research Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder.  Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience.

2005-2012: Research Associate, University of Colorado at Boulder.  Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience. Laboratory of Drs. Steven F. Maier & Linda R. Watkins.

2000-2005: Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Colorado at Boulder.  Dept. of Psychology. Laboratory of Drs. Steven Maier & Linda Watkins

2000-2005: Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Colorado at Boulder.  Dept. of Psychology. Laboratory of Dr. Jerry W. Rudy.

1995-2000: Pre-doctoral Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) Fellow. NIMH, NIH, Section on Neuroendocrine Immunology and Behavior. Laboratory of Dr. Esther M. Sternberg.

1992-1995: Graduate Research Assistant, The George Washington University, Dept. of Psychology. Laboratory of Dr. Larry A. Rothblat.

1991-1992: Undergraduate Research Assistant, George Mason University, Dept. of Psychology. Laboratory of Dr. Robert F. Smith.

1991-1992: Undergraduate Research Assistant, George Mason University, Dept. of Psychology. Laboratory of Dr. June P. Tangney

Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grant Awards

2017: University of Colorado Arts & Sciences Fund for Excellence Award

2006-Present: R01 NIH, National Institute on Aging: "Neuroinflammation, Inflammatory Challenge, and Memory”

2002: Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society Scholars Award

2001-2004: (PI) F32 NIH, National Institute of Mental Health: Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award “Cytokines and Memory Consolidation”

2000-2001: (Post-doctoral Supplemental Minority Fellowship) NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Pain facilitation by gp120, and HIV envelope protein”

1995-2000:  National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health: Intramural Research Training Award Fellowship

1995: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health: Summer Intramural Research Training Award Fellowship

1992-1995: George Washington University Graduate Fellowship

Last Updated 10/02/17