Life in the Lab: Amy Ross

Photo taken by Carolyn Richardson

Photo taken by Carolyn Richardson

Amy Ross is a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Marise Parent, associate professor of neuroscience. Ross recently moved into the Neuroscience Institute in the new Petit Science Center, where she researches how diet affects the brain.


As told to Jeremy Craig

Most of my research focuses on high fructose diets, and we have found so far that it does impair memory but doesn’t affect learning. But we have yet to figure out what’s exactly going on in the brain to cause this.

We’ve known for longer than a decade that diet can affect cognition. Most of the research focused on high-fat diets, but because we as a society are consuming more and more sugar, especially fructose, Dr. Parent got the idea to study the subject.

It looks like the process involves more than just the brain directly. Most of what you consume is processed by the liver, especially fructose and high fat, and from there, it can go on to the rest of your body. Our new hypothesis is that something is going on in the liver, and that, in turn, is affecting the brain.

I became interested in brains and behavior back in high school. I took a psychology class, and I really, really liked it. I got my undergraduate degree in the field at the University of Pittsburgh’s Johnstown campus.

I’d like to continue this research after I’m finished, and my ideal job would be at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.