Gabriela Batista presenting the results of her research at the Summer UTRA Poster Session (Credit: Joshua Danielson).


Gabriela Batista (2018 UTRA)




Project Title: Testing the Effect of Temporal Delay on Sequential Processing (Advisor: Theresa Desrochers; Neuroscience)

What is your major/concentration?
I am concentrating in Neuroscience.

What year will you graduate?
I will graduate in 2020.

Where are you from?
I am from Cheshire, Connecticut.

What were your academic interests in high school?
In high school I was interested in Biology and Psychology, although I always really loved English classes as well.

What is your favorite activity outside of the classroom?
My favorite activity outside of the classroom is hiking or backpacking. I love hiking around New England, although would love to backpack across other parts of the country and world.

Why did you decide to pursue research in brain science?
After taking my first neuroscience class at Brown, I fell in love with the intricacies of neural systems and circuitry. Neuroscience fell at the perfect intersection between my interests in biology and psychology, and furthered my curiosity in the connection between the mind and body. I decided to pursue research in brain science because I was eager to learn more about this incredibly complex and enigmatic organ, as well as the methodologies for which breakthroughs in neuroscience come about.

Can you tell us a little about your project and what you found?
My UTRA project in the Desrochers lab investigates how motor sequences facilitate the execution of abstract task sequences. Executing sequences of tasks in order to accomplish an overarching goal (e.g. making soup) is an integral part of daily life. These tasks have both motor components (like cutting vegetables with a knife) and abstract planning (such as cooking soup). Though previous research has shown that the presence of an embedded motor sequence facilitates the execution of abstract task sequences, this project began to determine whether motor and abstract sequences are represented by an integrated or parallel model in the brain. Preliminary data from this project showed that adding a motor component to an abstract sequence facilitates task execution. It also demonstrated that even once a motor component is removed from an abstract sequence, task execution may still be facilitated, as opposed to abstract sequences that were never executed with a motor component at all. This suggests that motor and abstract sequences may be represented by a parallel model. 

What is your most memorable experience from your training in brain science?
My most memorable experience from working in the Desrochers lab is getting to collaborate with Professor Desrochers and all of my lab mates. From bouncing ideas and feedback about our ongoing projects off each other, to sharing exciting scientific literature in the field, I love being in an environment where undergrads, grad students, and post docs can all work together to excel our understanding of the brain.

What have you learned from this experience that you are applying to other aspects of your Brown degree?
The experience of conducting research through the UTRA grant has helped me develop valuable skills in project design, data collection and analysis, and presentation of scientific results. Furthermore, I can now apply my understanding of how the brain processes and executes abstract tasks to the neuroscience and pre-med classes I am taking as part of my Brown degree. As I am specifically interested in mental health, studying higher order cognitive control will give me a greater understanding of how brain health affects behavior. 

What would you like to do after graduating?
After graduating, I plan on applying to medical school. I look forward to being able to translate my understanding of the brain to psychiatry, neurology, or other areas of medicine.