Maya Barrett

Student NameMaya Barrett
Faculty Mentor NameSara, Burke, Ph.D.
CollegeCollege of Medicine
MajorPsychology, Emphasis on Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience, and Women’s Studies
Research InterestsNeuroscience, Memory, Cognition, Human Sexuality, Sexual Violence
Academic AwardsUniversity Scholars Program 2020, Phi Beta Kappa 2019, Anderson Scholar 2019, Emerging Scholars Program 2017, John V. Lombardi Scholar 2017
OrganizationsThe College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Council, the Honors Student Council
Hobbies and InterestsTrying mac & cheese at every Gainesville restaurant; attending SoFar show concerts; traveling internationally

Research Project

Influence of Age & the Ketogenic Diet on Task Dependent Neuronal Activity?

The goal of my proposed project will be to determine the mechanisms of why the ketogenic diet improves cognition. It is understood that both the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the hippocampus (HPC) are brain regions that are critical for executive functioning and memory, two higher cognitive functions that decline with age. However, with increasing age both hyper- and hypo- excitability have been documented in these regions, thereby indicating the development of vulnerabilities over time. By implementing the ketogenic diet in aged rats, my research will investigate the diet’s impact on neural population activity, with the hypothesis that the ketogenic diet is specifically normalizing the activity properties of the neurons in the PFC and HPC, thereby reducing hyperactivity and improving memory and executive functioning. I will specifically be employing the immediate-early genes Arc and Homer, as they serve as markers for neuronal activity, within previously extracted and frozen brain tissue from behaviorally characterized aged rats.