UHealth - University of Miami Health System

Ellen F. Barrett, Ph.D.

General Information

Ellen F. Barrett, Ph.D.


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  • English


  • Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

Research Interests

  • Presynaptic aspects of vertebrate neuromuscular transmission
  • Mitochondrial Ca2+ handling in motor nerve terminals
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction in motor nerve terminals of mouse models of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (fALS)
  • Peripherally-active therapies to preserve neuromuscular function in fALS mice  


1972 Ph.D., Physiology and Biophysics
University of Washington
1966 B.S., Psychology
University of Washington




Dr. Barrett’s research has focused on functional studies of vertebrate motor nerve axons and terminals, using both electrophysiological and fluorescence imaging techniques.  Discoveries from her lab include (1) contributions of the internodal (submyelin) axolemma and K+ channels to axonal passive and active properties, (2) demonstration that mitochondria in motor nerve terminals temporarily sequester Ca2+ during repetitive nerve stimulation, and that their later extrusion of this Ca2+ produces post-tetanic potentiation, and (3) demonstration of early mitochondrial dysfunction in motor nerve terminals of mice expressing mutant human superoxide dismutase I, a model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  This work was done in collaboration with Drs. John Barrett and Gavriel David.

Her Ph.D. research was mentored by Drs. Charles F. Stevens; postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado was mentored by Dr. A. R. Martin.  After joining the faculty at the University of Miami she completed two 4-year terms reviewing grants on National Institutes of Health (NIH) study sections, served a 7 year term on the editorial board of the Journal of Physiology, and received a Javits Neuroscience Research Award from the NIH.

She has devoted considerable effort to graduate and medical school teaching.  Graduate teaching included service on the Neuroscience Steering Committee, and serving as coordinator of a graduate Cell Physiology course and the Neuroscience journal club.   Currently she focuses on teaching medical students (both traditional and MD/MPH), coordinating the Cellular Function & Regulation: Physiology course (first year), and both Respiratory and Renal Modules (second year).   She serves on the Executive Faculty Curriculum Advisory Committee and on Promotion Committees, and has received several teaching awards.  She was elected to a 3 year term on the Faculty Senate in 2015.