Ruth Barrientos

Psychology and Neuroscience; Member of the Center for Neuroscience

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Campus Box 345
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0345

Phone: 303-492-0777
FAX: 303-492-2967

Dr. Barrientos is a behavioral neuroscientist researching the deleterious effects of an immune challenge (such as a serious bacterial infection, or surgery) on long-term memory.

These immune challenges are accompanied by an inflammatory response in the brain, and often, these responses are adaptive and beneficial. However, when the immune cells of the brain, microglia, are sensitized, subsequent immune challenges produce exaggerated and prolonged inflammatory responses. These sustained levels of inflammation in the hippocampus region of the brain severely inhibit synaptic plasticity processes and lead to impairments in longterm contextual and spatial memory. Advanced age and consumption of high-fat/sugar diets have independently been shown to sensitize microglia and thus increase the vulnerability to memory disruptions following an immune challenge.

The goals of my research are to characterized the important factors in aging and high fat/sugar diet consumption 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.

Selected Publications: