The Synapse-Your Connection to MIDB News

The Synapse: Feb. 2024

Collaboratorium at MIDB
Reynolds-Anthony Harris was announced as MIDB’s Chief of Staff last fall. He is the Founder and Managing Director of Lyceum Partners + design (LPDI), a global network of diverse talent committed to addressing and developing solutions that produce impact for communities and networks. In his new role at MIDB, he will implement internal and external collaborative structures, and engage internal and external collaborating partners.

I am thrilled to serve as MIDB’s new chief of staff and be part of MIDB’s trailblazing work to share what we’re learning here to shape the future of science education and provide the best possible care and support for children, adolescents and families. Over the past several months, I have enjoyed connecting with many of you to learn more about the work you do at MIDB.

Throughout the year we will continue to mark time tied to nature and come together in person during the spring equinox, summer solstice, and autumn equinox.

At December’s winter solstice gatherings, I shared that we have formed three working collaborations as part of our work called "Collaboratorium." These areas are:

  1. Rooted in Legacy: We recognize the U has already made enormous contributions to brain research. To continue this momentum, we all need to be a part of creating our next steps. Throughout the year, people with varying experience from across MIDB will participate in dialogue and deliberation, which will in turn inform our future direction of MIDB.
  2. Momentum: To increase our potency around research and impact around the world, we will work with young people and families to understand the magic and wonders of the brain and how it's connected to development and wellbeing, as well as change how people talk about the brain. Our focus on a child’s first 1,000 days is game changing for the future of science education.
  3. Foresight: With a focus on our future, we are taking a collective look at how what we're learning about the brain plays into wellbeing. All of what we do at MIDB has an impact on people’s capacity to flourish. We will examine our community engagement and find that mission connection, which is at the core of all our relationships.

We are also reimagining and launching our work under the following umbrellas:

  • First Thousand Days Plus
  • Meaningful Meandering (The Adolescent "Experience")
  • Informed and Informing Communities

At MIDB, we have amazing opportunities in the research and clinical spaces, and to be present and engaged in communities. We are at a moment in time where we can direct our future and truly make a difference in the world.

child talking with clinician

Study: High School Students Who Report Using Alcohol, Cannabis or Nicotine at Higher Risk for Suicidal Thoughts and Other Mental Health Disorders
A new study conducted by researchers at the U of M and Massachusetts General Hospital and published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that high school students who reported using cannabis, alcohol or nicotine were more likely to have thoughts about suicide, feel depressed or anxious, have unusual experiences, and exhibit inattention or hyperactivity. “Our study’s results highlight the prevalence of psychiatric co-morbidities among young people who use substances, and they lend strong support for the notion that screening, prevention, intervention and policy efforts need to comprehensively address targets beyond substance use alone,” said lead author Brenden Tervo-Clemmens, PhD, an assistant professor at the U of M Medical School and the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain. “Also, these efforts may not need to necessarily be specific to a given substance, but rather reflect the multifaceted mental health needs of all adolescents who use substances.”
Learn more about the study.


A paper published in 2022 by lead author Casey Burrows, PhD, and Jed Elison, PhD, has been recognized in the 2022 Summary of Advances in Autism Research, released by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) in December 2023. The paper showed that measurement bias may contribute to underdiagnosis or late diagnosis of autism in girls, highlighting the need to improve detection methods for girls and ensure access to interventions based on need, regardless of formal diagnosis. The paper was selected as one of the top 20 most significant autism research advances published in 2022 by the IACC.

Amy Hewitt, PhD, has been awarded the
Association of University Centers on Disabilities George S. Jesien Distinguished Achievement Award. The honor is in recognition of her career of excellence and leadership in support of AUCD’s mission to advance policy and practice for and with people living with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities. She will also receive the 2024 Leadership Award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This award recognizes courage, dedication, and outstanding contributions to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Frank Symons, PhD, will receive the
2024 Research Award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The award honors investigations who have contributed significantly to the body of scientific knowledge in the field.

child in school

Stronger TIES, Better Schools
TIES Center researchers are working with several large U.S. school districts to boost the quality and quantity of learning time spent in inclusive classrooms among students with extensive support needs. Their aim: Enhancing students’ life-long choices and outcomes. The customized work with individual states and districts follows extensive expertise the TIES Center gained as a national technical assistance center focused on inclusive education practices and policies. TIES, a program within the Institute on Community Integration, stands for increasing the time students spend in grade-level, general education classrooms; educators’ instructional effectiveness; engagement with age-grade peers; and the support for inclusion by state and district education leaders, all of which leads to better student outcomes.
Read more about this work.

photographer Hannah Rousar

Winter Art Show Open Now
Art for All’s newest exhibition and sale, on display through Feb. 16 in the gallery at MIDB, features emerging photographer Hannah Rousar (pictured) in her first show and six other artists displaying their latest work. The exhibition includes paintings, mixed media, ceramics, and photography, and was created as part of Art for All: The Stephanie Evelo Program for Art Inclusion at the Institute for Community Integration. The shows advance the program’s mission of not only supporting emerging and professional artists with disabilities, but also bringing their work into wider community spaces to enhance understanding of the artists’ vision of the world.
Read more about the exhibit.

Artwork Fleur de Junk by Stephanie Dillon

MIDB Artwork Spotlight: "Fleur de Junk"
The piece "Fleur de Junk" is now part of MIDB's permanent art collection. Created by local artist Stephanie Dillon, the 6 foot by 4 foot canvas in acrylic medium features pink, orange, blue, yellow, black and white. Generously purchased on behalf of the MIDB by Craig and Robin Dahl in support of FashionFest, the piece is located on the first floor of MIDB, just as visitors come in from the garage and just before they arrive at the clinic desk.
Read more about Dillon.

Other News

Damien Fair and Katie Cullen
Learn more about the important implications early brain development has for mental health outcomes.
Picture of two trainees
The students will work with MIDB researcher Casey Burrows.
MIDB MRI room with Seascape imagery
MIDB is the first Minnesota facility to partner with RxART to enhance its physical environment through visual art.