College of Education and Human Development wordmark.

McNair Scholar 2012Gabriel De Los Rios

Gabriel De Los Rios is a junior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, majoring in neuroscience and minoring in psychology. His interests focus on the cognitive mind and its effects on individual and social behaviors. Mr. De Los Rios plans on getting his Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience.

>Gabriel De Los Rios photo
My dream is to first receive my Ph.D. in neuroscience and to eventually become a principle investigator researching my own interests. I want to make advances in the field of cognitive neuroscience so we can begin to understand why some people experience deficits in mental process and how we can begin to fix them.

Research project

Energy Disorder & Obesity:  Saturated Fatty Acid Induced Hypothalamic Neurodegeneration

Abstract: High fat diets (HFD), particularly diets high in saturated fats, are associated with an increase in weight gain, eventually resulting in obesity. A HFD is also thought to increase levels of ceramides, fatty acid metabolites that have been shown to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in neurons. Myriocin (myr), a potential ceramide inhibitor, has been shown to inhibit serine palmitoyl transferase-1 (SPT1), the rate-limiting enzyme of de novo ceramide synthesis. To test the hypothesis that saturated fats, such as palmitic acid (PA), induce hypothalamic neurodegeneration, we treated a hypothalamic cell line with PA and (myr). We predicted that myr would interrupt de novo ceramide synthesis following PA treatment, thus preventing neurodegeneration. Cell viability was measured with a resazurin-based assay that produces a fluorescent signal that can be measured in relative fluorescent units (RFUs). The results showed that there were significantly higher levels of cell viability when cells were pretreated with myr and challenged with PA, suggesting that neurodegeneration is caused by an increase in PA-induced ceramide synthesis. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Tammy Butterick is a Research Associate in the University of Minnesota Department of Food Science and Nutrition, and recipient of a Career Development Award grant at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center (starting Fall 2012). She received her B.S. and M.S degrees in Medical Microbiology from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and her doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota from the Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Butterick’s research focuses on the role of the neurotransmitter orexin A in energy expenditure, and is a part of work conducted by the Minnesota Obesity Neuroscience Lab, an interdisciplinary research group studying the neuroscience of obesity.