Cheryl Deep manages media relations and publications for the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute. To interview faculty, pursue a news tip or learn more about what we do, contact her at 313-664-2607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In a perfect world, all of our doctors would be really good at something called “motivational interviewing.” Wayne State University psychiatry professor Steven Ondersma is a big believer in the power of motivational interviewing. So much so that he spent the first chunk of his career traveling around training physicians how to do it. Then, he hit a wall. “I was getting more and more skeptical of my abilities, or anybody’s ability, to really implant it into the healthcare system, and have it reproduce with fidelity,” he says. For one thing, he says, you can only do so much training. For another, doctors don’t have a lot of time in their day for in-depth screenings and open-ended "feely" questions. “Some people can learn it very quickly and are masters at it. And some people, if they were ever to get good at it, they’d really have to work at it,” he says (which is motivational-interviewing speak for saying that some doctors are terrible at this). So Ondersma started exploring a growing field called "computerized intervention. It's already being tested for everything from reducing violence, to screening for mental health issues, to getting high schoolers to just say no to drugs. But Ondersma is especially interested in helping one kind of patient: pregnant women grappling with substance abuse, primarily marijuana, alcohol, smoking, and opioids. In the long run, Ondersma is hoping to build up a big enough study to look at web interventions and other substances, like opioids.
Evidence that fetuses at risk for preterm birth have abnormal neuroconnectivity has been revealed for the first time by researchers based at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, the Perinatology Research Branch of NICHD/NIH and the Yale School of Medicine. Preterm infants are three times more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, developmental delays, and experience a higher rate of school failure. This new discovery suggests that disordered neuroconnectivity associated with developmental disorders and human prematurity may originate in utero. Prenatal differences in neuroconnectivity may be the basis for neurodevelopmental disorders that become clinically apparent in infancy, adolescence or adulthood in a subset of children born preterm. 'This discovery will alter current conceptualization of prematurity and injuries associated with early delivery by spotlighting prenatal differences in neural circuitries,' said Moriah Thomason, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the WSU School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics, WSU's Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and section head of the Unit on Perinatal Neural Connectivity within the Perinatology Research Branch of NICHD/NIH/DHHS. “Observed effects agree with evidence of atypical brain connectivity in preterm-born neonates, and establish for the first time that those differences have onset prior to the potentially injurious experiences of early delivery,” said Thomason.
Even before they are born, premature babies may display alterations in the circuitry of their developing brains, according to a first-of-its kind research study by Yale School of Medicine researchers and their colleagues at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Wayne State University.
The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing Group Journal. According to the authors, 10 percent to 11 percent of American babies are born prematurely. This new study suggests that factors contributing to early birth might also impact the brain's development in the womb, leading to significant neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and cerebral palsy. In the study, Yale School of Medicine researchers Laura Ment, M.D., Dustin Scheinost, and R. Todd Constable collaborated closely with principal investigator Moriah Thomason of Wayne State University, and Roberto Romero, M.D., chief of the Perinatology Research Branch and Program Director for Obstetrics and Maternal-Fetal Medicine of NICHD/NIH.
Babies born prematurely are prone to problems later in life—they’re more likely to develop autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more likely to struggle in school. A new study that’s among the first to investigate brain activity in human fetuses suggests that the underlying neurological issues may begin in the womb. The findings provide the first direct evidence of altered brain function in fetuses that go on to be born prematurely, and they might ultimately point to ways to remediate or even prevent such early injuries. In the new study, published today in Scientific Reports, developmental neuroscientist Moriah Thomason of Wayne State University School of Medicine, and colleagues report a difference in how certain brain regions communicate with each other in fetuses that were later born prematurely compared with fetuses that were carried to term. Although the findings are preliminary because the study was small, Thomason and other researchers say the work illustrates the potential (and the challenges) of the emerging field of fetal neuroimaging. Thomason and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate brain activity in 32 fetuses. The pregnant mothers were participants in a larger, long-term study of brain development led by Thomason. “The majority have just normal pregnancies, but they’re drawn from a low-resource population that’s at greater risk of early delivery and developmental problems,” she says. In the end, 14 of the fetuses were born prematurely.
Legislators, educators, and other stakeholders are beginning to grasp that daycare experiences are the earliest form of childhood education—a fact that child development experts have long known. "The research has been there, and we have been working a long time at making the public aware of the importance of those early years and the long-term impact on children's growth, development and later school success," says Anna Miller, early childhood education lecturer at Wayne State University. The measure of a city's vitality is the support available to grow and maintain strong families, says Miller, who also serves as executive director of the Wayne State University College of Education Early Childhood Center and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute Early Childhood Center. She feels optimistic about the many early education-focused initiatives that are forming. "We've done a wonderful job attracting business back into Detroit and some understand the importance of investing in young children and families," says Miller. In addition to all the new daycare centers opening in Detroit, a brand new civic partnership kicked off late this fall with the intent to strengthen and align early educational offerings to all of the city's children. Hope Starts Here is a collaboration between the W.K. Kellogg and Kresge foundation, and will include more than 100 community leaders sharing wisdom about what young children need to succeed socially and academically.
The Free Press spent a year talking to children across Detroit about how they live and what issues they see as most important. Safe neighborhoods, schools, job opportunities, teen pregnancy and help for young parents were among key issues raised. Based on these conversations, as well as community meetings and a poll, the Free Press looked at efforts both in Detroit and around the country. Beverly Weathington, LMSW, coordinates the Healthier Urban Families Program at Merrill Palmer Skillman and ran the focus groups. This project was done with a $75,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, New York-based nonprofit that partners with newsrooms around the country to do projects that focus on solutions to social issues. Beyond crime, students interviewed by the Free Press expressed concerns about a range of other issues. First in Series by Katrease Stafford.
Researcher Moriah Thomason awarded $2.3 million to study impact of trauma and PTSD on developing brains of young children.
Moriah Thomason, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and in the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development at Wayne State University, uses novel methods in her lab for detecting and characterizing large-scale human brain networks. While using safe MRI technology to scan the brains of developing fetuses, she and her team discovered something quite staggering. We tend to think of the brain as forming in the way a building is constructed – sturdy foundations are laid first, then we build up and up, level by level. Later we add the nuances. Thomason’s team discovered that the emotional and abstract thinking aspects come on line at the very earliest stages. Then, the more primal elements form. This runs totally counter to our Newtonian way of thinking. This is quantum.
A bountiful collection of historic buildings is located on Wayne State’s campus, including the historic Thompson Home (pictured), Jacob and Linsell Houses, Charles Lang Freer House (Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute), Old Main and McGregor Memorial Conference Center.
“I think that Wayne State is one of largest single owner of historic buildings in the city,” says William Colburn, executive director of the Charles Lang Freer House and was founding executive director of Preservation Wayne (now known as Preservation Detroit).
Noa Ofen, Ph.D., a Wayne State University researcher in lifespan cognitive neuroscience, received a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health to study the development of memory networks in children. Researchers will investigate brain activity predictive of memory formation in children who undergo surgery as part of clinical management of medically uncontrolled epilepsy. “Little is known about how memory systems develop in the human brain,” Ofen said. “In this project, we will use a combination of unique neuroimaging methodologies that allow us to add new insights about the neural basis of memory development. We also hope this project will be a first step toward clinical applications that can ultimately improve the quality of life of children with focal epilepsy.” Ofen is jointly appointed to Wayne State’s Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Gerontology’s Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience Program that — together with research laboratories at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development — apply a cognitive neuroscience approach to study developmental effects from pre-birth to old age.
Dorothy Mahlin graduates from Wayne State University 40 years after her first class. MPSI Trainee Amy Graham supported Dorothy through the process to insure she got the remaining credits for her bachelor's degree in Communication Studies this December.
Researchers from Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan – which make up the University Research Corridor (URC) – will receive $2.5 million over five years in a cooperative agreement with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. They have designed a program of professional development for teachers and an intervention for parents and will evaluate its effects on parent and teacher mindfulness and reflective functioning. The team hopes that strengthening those skills will support more responsive interactions between teachers, parents and children in Early Head Start programs. Ann Stacks, director of the Infant Mental Health program at WSU’s Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, is the principal investigator. “We want to induce and sustain lasting change. Sensitivity in parenting and teaching young children is a key component of later social and emotional competence and school readiness. This skill is especially important when infants and young children are at-risk for delays. We will test whether our approach can promote that sensitivity,” Stacks said.
Babies born prematurely are much more likely than other children to develop autism, ADHD and emotional disorders. Now researchers think they may have an idea about how that could happen. There's evidence that preemies are born with weak connections in some critical brain networks, including those involved in focus, social interactions, and emotional processing, researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago. Another team attending the neuroscience meeting presented evidence that at least some of the brain connection differences found in preemies at birth are also present during pregnancy. The team used new MRI technology that allowed them to study the brains of 36 fetuses during the 30th week of pregnancy. Half the fetuses went on to be delivered prematurely and half went to full term. When the researchers looked at connections between areas of the brain involved in movement and balance, the full-term fetuses had "higher levels of connectivity than the preterm born," says Moriah Thomason, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics from Wayne State University School of Medicine. This could explain why premature babies often are late to sit up and stand, she says. The results suggest that it's not necessarily premature birth itself causing brain connection problems, Thomason says. Both premature birth and weak brain connections, she says, may be triggered by factors like stress or illness or exposure to toxins.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has renewed advice to pregnant women: do not drink alcohol, not even a little bit, not at all. The update of an old warning from the U.S. surgeon general is meant as a best practices paper for clinicians, but also a warning to American mothers-to-be. Since the 1970s, researchers have associated prenatal drinking with neurocognitive and behavioral problems, as well as distinct facial deformities. The group of symptoms is known collectively as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASD (the most severe of which is fetal alcohol syndrome). But the admonition to American women is muddled by a lack of knowledge about the disease and varying international standards. Perhaps most surprising, the highest prevalence of drinking among pregnant women remains among college-educated, middle-aged women. “If a patient admits to drinking a glass of wine perhaps before she knew she was pregnant, there’s no reason for panic,” said John Hannigan, a professor of obstetrics and psychology at Wayne State University. “And the correct and clinical recommendations are not to worry but stop your
A Wayne State graduate is donating $2 million to the school’s alumni association. The gift will be used to maintain the organization’s new offices in the Hecker House and fund future programming. Chacona Johnson, vice president for development and alumni affairs, says the donor, Thomas Tierney, inquired about naming rights for the house after attending the school’s Detroit Homecoming event last year. “At that time we were purchasing what was then the Charfoos law office in the Hecker House, and, unbeknownst to us, Mr. Tierney was paying close attention to that. He’s very partial to older homes and grand mansions.” Johnson says, prior to Tierney’s 2014 visit, he had not been back to Detroit in almost 40 years. The school is officially dedicating the Hecker House as the Tierney Alumni House on Wednesday.
Charles Lang Freer loved Asian and American art so much that he had his 1892 shingle-style Detroit home expanded three times in 1906, 1910 and 1913 to accommodate his expansive collection. Those Eastern and Western influences also were seen in his garden, installed when the house was built, redesigned in 1906, and now target of a more than $250,000 restoration campaign. The project, which is expected to take two years to complete, begins with the removal of slate outside the home at 71 E. Ferry St. so an aggregate-material driveway mimicking the wealthy railroad freight car manufacturing magnate’s original can be installed. Existing plants are also being removed and repurposed around the campus of Wayne State University, which owns and manages the home's property between Woodward Avenue and John R Street in Midtown, said Meghan Urisko, research assistant at the Freer House. The campaign is an effort to lift the school into the top ranks of public urban research universities in the U.S. The project is part of Wayne State’s $750 million Pivotal Moments campaign, launched last year and expected to be complete in 2018 to coincide with the school’s 150th anniversary.
Over the past five years, Wayne State University has committed major funds for a new historically appropriate roof with copper gutters and downspouts, and for a cleaning of exterior masonry. Underway now is a fundraising campaign by the Freer House t revitalize the garden and courtyard, where Freer once planted an unusual mix of Asian and Western plants that provided the harmoniously balanced colors he craved. Indoors, the organization is raising money to renovat the 1906 picture gallery, which Freer had created above a former carriage house and service block.
Downtown Birmingham, 12/16/13
Board Member Ann Nicholson Honored at DAC Tribute
Phebe Goldstein Speak at Nicholson Tribute
Merrill Palmer Skillman Director Lichtenberg Awards Nicholson
Merrill Palmer Skillman Board of Visitors member Ann Nicholson is honored for her contributions to the achievements of the institute and particularly the Early Childhood Center for 3 1/2 to 5 year olds. The luncheon, held at the Detroit Athletic Club, hosted about 60 of Ann's friends and colleagues, including her son David who was recently elected to the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
The De La Salle Collegiate, 10/30/2013
Students attend MPSI's Giant Step Teen Conference
Celebrating 30 Years of Helping Teens Unite, 10/24/13
GIant Step Conference moves to bigger venue to help more teens, Today@Wayne
The Educator, 9/1/13
A Great Start for Detroit's Midtown Children
The Woodward Corridor Early Childhood Consortium is working to raise the quality of all Detroit's preschools, starting with more than a dozen schools and daycare centers in the Midtown area. The Consortium is a joint project of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and the College of Education at Wayne State University.
The Examiner, 7/31/13
Tour historic homes in Detroit on August 13
By Frank Nemecek
The local historic preservation group Preservation Detroit and the Wayne State Insiders will offer a tour of several historic homes in the Midtown neighborhood on Tuesday, August 13. Doors will be open from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. A docent from Preservation Detroit will share points of interest at each destination. The seven historic homes on this tour of the Midtown neighborhood include the David Mackenzie House, Beecher House, Freer House, Jacob House, Linsell House, Rands House and Thompson House. The Wayne State Insiders group includes alumni, friends, students, parents, faculty and staff who serve as informal ambassadors for Wayne State and our Midtown community.
The Jewish News, 5/30/13
Freer House Event Celebrates Yoga and Eastern Art
Prognosis News, 5/16/13
MPSI Researcher Chairs Major Symposium
Dr. Noa Ofen, an assistant professor in the MPSI and IOG Lifespan program and in the School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics, received high honors in being selected to chair and speak at a major symposium at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry in San Francisco. Her symposium, "Memory Systems in Development, Risk and Disease: A Case Study for R-DoC Applications in the Schizophrenia Diathesis" was one of the few selected for presentation. Dr. Ofen's research with children and adolescents seeks to understand learning and memory networks in the developing human brain, including vulnerability to schizophrenia.
Detroit News, 4/24/13
For Wayne State scientist, the brain is a work of art
By Ingrid Jacques
Moriah Thomason, a developmental neuroscientist at Wayne State University and assistant professor of pediatrics, is doing groundbreaking research on brain connectivity in fetuses and children. Her research, which has the potential to lead to better understanding — and future treatment — of a range of conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and depression, is funded in large part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many of the expecting mothers Thomason sees as part of the WSU project are depressed — about 28 percent, which is much higher than average. A mother's depression can influence a child's chance of depression as well. In February, Thomason's innovative research appeared in Science Translational Medicine, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She scanned the brains of 25 fetuses between 24 and 39 weeks. She used functional magnetic resonance imaging to map the connections between various areas of the brain. This research is a collaboration between Wayne State's medical school and the NIH, which houses its Perinatology Research Branch at the university. NIH chose this location in 2002 because of Detroit's high number of pre-term births; and the agency recently announced it would renew the university's contract for another 10 years. Matt Lockwood, communications director at Wayne State University, says this is the only such lab in the country and the university is pleased the contract was renewed. "We're proud of it," he says. Roberto Romero, the obstetrician and gynecologist who heads the Detroit NIH branch, says Thomason's work will have "international impact." He says such research would be expected at universities like Harvard and Yale, but perhaps not at Wayne State. "This pioneering work is here in Detroit," Romero says. "People in Michigan should be proud."
Detroit Jewish News, 2/28/13
WSU’s brain study breaks new ground
Wayne State University researchers have shown for the first time that brain connectivity in human fetuses can be measured, which could translate into new ways to prevent and treat brain disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. A collaborative project between Wayne State University and the Perinatology Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health led to this major discovery. (Subscriber access only.)
Detroit News, MIT Technology Review, Health24, 2/21; US News & World Report, Science Magazine (cover story), CBS Detroit, News Scientist, WWJ-AM, 2/20
Wayne State University researchers map fetal brain signal
For the first time anywhere, Wayne State University researchers have shown brain connectivity in fetuses, a discovery that could lead to new ways to prevent and treat brain disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Moriah Thomason, a developmental neuroscientist, collaborated with other WSU researchers and used magnetic resonance imaging to capture real-time images that showed communication signals between more than 40 regions of the brain of fetuses in utero. “We never, ever have been able to peer into the fetal brain and look at the development of functional networks,” said Thomason, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the WSU School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study. "Scientific researchers will take this new method and apply it to a great number of questions, and that will help us all."
Prognosis News, 2/20/13
WSU Researchers Capture Brain Connectivity in Human Fetuses
Are some children born anti-social?
Christopher Trentacosta, Wayne State University assistant professor of psychology, believes both nature and nurture appear to be significant factors in early antisocial behaviors of adopted children. Trentacosta was a guest on “The Craig Fahle Show.”
Science Codex, Science Daily, 12/10/12
Wayne State researcher finds possible clue to children's early antisocial behavior
Both nature and nurture appear to be significant factors in early antisocial behaviors of adopted children, a Wayne State University researcher believes. Christopher Trentacosta, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recently examined data from 361 linked triads (birth mother, adoptive parents, adopted child) in order to assess externalizing behavioral problems such as aggression and defiance when children were 18, 27 and 54 months of age. The triads were part of the Early Growth and Development Study (EGDS), a nationwide, prospective study of birth parents and adoptive families that is supported by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health — all part of the National Institutes of Health — to Trentacosta's colleagues at the Oregon Social Learning Center and the Pennsylvania State University.
Med Research, Fall 2012
Beyond Grey Matter: Exploring the link in utero between brain function and developmental outcomes later in life
By Andrea Westfall
WJBK Fox 2, 10/30/12
Giant Step Teen Conference held at WSU
Hundreds of teenagers attended the Giant Step Teen Conference held at Wayne State University yesterday. This year’s keynote speaker was Ronnie Bachman, who told his inspiring story of survival and success. Ron was born with legs so badly deformed they hindered his ability to crawl. At age 4, his parents made the difficult decision to have both legs amputated at the hip.Giant Step is Michigan’s longest running teen conference attracting over 5,000 participants.
Detroit Free Press, USA Today, Black Christian News, 6/10/12
Flipping the script on mundane habits can boost brain productivity
USA Today, Black Christian News
By Robin Erb
Research suggests that certain types of mental exercises -- whether they are memory games on your mobile device or jotting down letters backward -- might help our brain maintain concentration, memory and visual and spatial skills over the years. At a recent "Brain Neurobics" session at the Waltonwood Senior Living center in Novi, Cheryl Deep of Wayne State’s Institute of Gerontology, encouraged several dozen senior citizens to flip the pictures in their homes upside-down. It might baffle houseguests, but the exercise crowbars the brain out of familiar grooves cut deep by years of mindless habit. "Every time you walk past and look, your brain has to rotate that image," Deep said. "Brain neurobics is about getting us out of those ruts, those pathways, and shaking things up." Assistant professor of pediatrics Moriah Thomason, a scientific adviser to www.Lumosity.com, one of the fastest-growing brain game websites, is a proponent of mental workouts. "We used to think that what you're born with is what you have through life. But now we understand that the brain is a lot more plastic and flexible than we ever appreciated," she said. Photos from the event are included.
Observer & Eccentric, 4/8
Image is everything
By Jay M. Grossman
Dr. Moriah Thomason, a resident of Birmingham and faculty member at Wayne State University, talked about her cutting-edge work in scanning the brains of fetuses in utero during a “Sunday Morning Chat” Q&A feature. Thomason describes her work as quite different involving the study of human fetal functional development, making it a pioneering work. The majority of work, she says, has been done looking at human fetal brain development looking at anatomical development. “We are going to open a window into the fetal period that has never been opened. We are going to peer inside and take a look at brain function before birth.” A photo of Thomason is included.
CBS Radio Detroit, 10/26/11
Steve Ondersma Gets Grant to Help High-Risk Mothers
By Matt Roush
A team of researchers at Wayne State University’s Parent Health Lab in the School of Medicine have received a three-year grant to develop a computer-delivered intervention for pregnant women at risk for alcohol use, which can lead to lifelong negative effects on the fetus. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health funded the “Healthy Pregnancy Study,” which will help Steven Ondersma, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, and colleagues develop and test a highly practical, high-reaching computer-delivered intervention to reduce alcohol use during pregnancy.
Class before kindergarten
By Taylor Ivana
Susan Madro, director of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute Early Childhood Education Center at Wayne State University and a Detroit school teacher for 20 years, commented in an article about the importance of preschool education. She says if parents choose a daycare center, they should make sure that their child will be educated while in attendance. "Children don't need to be just watching [television] or playing aimlessly. They need to have activities planned for them and opportunities for open-ended investigation," Madro said. "When they have those opportunities, they really flourish."
Science Daily, 2/23/11
Babies and Toddlers can Suffer Mental Illness, Seldom Get Treatment
Contrary to traditional beliefs that infants cannot have mental health problems "because they lack mental life," even young infants can react to the meaning of others' intentions and emotions because they have their own rudimentary intentions and motivating emotions, according to an article by Tronick and Marjorie Beeghly, PhD, of Wayne State University. While trauma can be a significant factor in developing mental health issues, the authors encourage more study of the impact of everyday life and continual interactions between infants and parents or other caregivers.
Ann Arbor News, 1/11/11
Dads Who Spank are More Likely to be Under Stress
By Juliana Keeping
Over half of dads don’t spank, but those who do may be spanking because they can’ t cope with parenting stress, or they’re abusing alcohol or drugs, according to new research. The research, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, is one of the first studies to delve into corporal punishment as it relatesto a father’s mental health, drug and alcohol use and paternal stress.Wayne State University professor Shawna Lee, of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, led the study with help from University of Michigan social work professor Brian Perron and others.
People Magazine, 10/4/10
When Grandma is Mom
By Richard Stolley
Read about Detroit's grandparents who are bravely raising their grandchildren when their children cannot. Lifespan research done at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State is cited.
The Wall Street Journal, 11/11/09
Why Puppy Love Matters
By Sue Shellenbarger
MPSI faculty researcher Valerie Simon was quoted in this article about teen dating. Among all challenges as a parent of teenagers, understanding their affairs of the heart can be the most baffling.