The Synapse; Your connection to MIDB News

The Synapse: June 2021

An Interdisciplinary Culture of Collaboration: Q&A with Neely Miller, MIDB Clinical Research Coordinator

Clinical research will be a cornerstone of MIDB, and work continues to develop the research programs, associated core services, and equipment capabilities in the new research space, which will continue to be called the Center for Neurobehavioral Development (CNBD). We are fortunate to have Neely Miller on board as the MIDB's new clinical research coordinator. She brings to the position extensive experience in coordinating and managing the research activities of the CNBD, and in this brief Q&A has provided insight into some of the research enhancements we can look forward to when MIDB opens this fall.
What are you most excited about being part of MIDB?
I’m excited to make things easier for families. Instead of having multiple destinations for clinic and research visits, we will be able to do all of those things at one location. We are also making it easier for investigators by assembling research cores that can assist investigators in conceiving, developing, and executing research questions. Our proximity to clinics allows us to provide a number of services (pediatric phlebotomy, interpreter services) that weren’t previously available. Having multiple departments housed at MIDB will enable clinicians to respond to the changing needs of patients and families more efficiently.
How are you approaching research in new or unique ways?

One of the core concepts of MIDB is removing barriers to sharing knowledge and helping folks break out of their ‘cognitive box.’ By bringing together faculty from across disciplines and removing barriers between clinicians and researchers, we are creating and encouraging an interdisciplinary culture of collaboration. Communication is key here and allows us to approach research questions in a more integrated and comprehensive way, accelerating the pace of discovery and making a difference in the lives of kids and families. 

How will this benefit researchers, patients and families?

This integrated model will provide a seamless experience for families interacting with MIDB. On a logistical level, this means a family will have a one-stop shop for their clinic and research visits, and a comprehensive resource for connecting with support programs and research opportunities. More significantly, MIDB will mobilize our resources to get the discoveries our scientists make out into the clinics and community faster so that we can really make an impact on the lives of families. This is a game changer. 

Examining Adolescent Brain Development

Examining Adolescent Brain Development

U researchers are working with colleagues at 20 other institutions nationwide to determine how substance use affects brain function, behavior, and health in youth by participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Using interviews, tests of cognitive function, saliva samples, and brain imaging, the study will follow over 11,000 children throughout the country as they go through adolescence. Monica Luciana, PhD, and William Iacono, PhD, both with the Department of Psychology, are leading the U’s ABCD study site. By examining how kids’ brains and behaviors change over time, they hope to learn more about the associations between risk-taking behaviors like substance use and the emergence of psychological disorders. And, by examining genetic versus environmental influences, they hope to glean information they can use to promote health and well-being in young people as they grow into adulthood.
Supporting Patients and Families

Supporting Patients and Families

The local non-profit organization Birdies 4 Brains recently established the Birdies 4 Brains Superhero Fund at MIDB to support critical programs, clinical needs and amenities, while also providing financial assistance to patients and families. The fund will provide immediate support to families that are facing financial challenges related to critical illness, mental and behavioral health conditions, and brain injury. This support will help advance MIDB's goal to alleviate societal and personal problems in order to focus on early diagnosis and interventions that promote brain health throughout the lifespan. "The core mission of B4B is to help those who need it directly," said Brian J. Eder, Birdies 4 Brains co-founder and partner. "Our relationship with MIDB allows us to magnify our impact and help more people in our community. We’re excited about the future of what’s possible and look forward to many years of partnership."
Crisis Upon Crisis

Crisis Upon Crisis: New Impact Issue Has Launched

Exclusive research data on COVID-19 mortality rates among people with disabilities, insight from leaders in the disability field on the effect of multiple crises, and practical tips on maintaining education and well-being in the face of disaster are all available now in the just-launched issue of Impact. Impact is published by the Institute on Community Integration and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment, in part under grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Each issue is dedicated to a topic of importance to the disability community. This issue’s editors also wrote a feature article on the inequities people with disabilities face during and in the aftermath of disasters and crises, from the pandemic to natural disasters to social unrest.

Celebrating Five Years of Transforming Autism Research

Celebrating Five Years of Transforming Autism Research

Since 2016, the University of Minnesota has been a part of SPARK, a landmark autism research study that examines genetic, behavioral, and medical information from hundreds of thousands of people. Led by Suma Jacob, MD, PhD, director of the Autism Research Program in the CANeurodevelopment Lab, the University has helped SPARK enroll over 250,000 families that are affected by autism, making SPARK the largest study of autism ever. SPARK Research Match connects study participants with autism researchers around the world. To date, 33,676 families have been part of nearly 100 autism research studies through Research Match. As a result of the participation of so many families, SPARK is transforming the way that autism research is done. SPARK will continue on for decades to come, learning from participants as they grow and develop.

WASABI Study is Just What Teens with Social Anxiety Need Right Now

The WASABI (Wiring Adolescents with Social Anxiety via Behavioral Interventions) Study provides 12 weeks of once-a-week online sessions designed to compare two forms of digital cognitive-behavioral group therapy. “The COVID pandemic has hit teens with social anxiety particularly hard,” said Site PI Gail A. Bernstein, MD. “As a result, they’re suffering from the effects of isolation and it’s showing up in increased anxiety and depression symptoms.” Connect with the WASABI team to learn more about the study. If you have questions for the team, please email [email protected] or call 612-326-4228.
Stepping Back to Move Forward

Stepping Back to Move Forward

“You have to take into account what the family is going through outside of the clinical environment,” said Megan Andre, a 2019–20 Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND) Program graduate. “It’s really easy to get stuck in the professional mindset and only think about the technical aspects of what needs to be accomplished in the appointment.” Combined with her residency training and earlier career experiences with people with a variety of neurodevelopmental disabilities, MNLEND solidified the family-centered care she now delivers, and the understanding that disparities in resources can have a dramatic impact on how therapies are accessed. Read more about Andre.

Members of ICD Develop Curriculum

Members of ICD Develop Curriculum for the The Ladder Mentorship Program

Members of the Institute of Child Development’s Outreach and Engagement Committee recently initiated the development of a curriculum for elementary, middle, and high schoolers about stress, the body, and coping for The Ladder’s May virtual session on mental health. The Ladder is a club for kids from North Minneapolis who are interested in health careers. The program offers a structured environment of service learning, leadership development, and cascading mentorship. It aims to expose children and youth to health careers in an integrated manner and includes members from fourth grade all the way through practicing physicians. Dr. Anita Randolph, head of MIDB's Engagement CORE, fostered the introduction between ICD and The Ladder. Learn more about the multi-part curriculum.


Meet the LEND Class of 2021

Meet the LEND Class of 2021

Capping a year of learning and interacting almost entirely online, the 29 graduates of the Institute on Community Integration's Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND) certificate program recently closed out their final ceremony with a few last words of their own. In this video, presented at the MNLEND graduation on May 20, fellows reflected on what they learned and accomplished over the past year in this interdisciplinary program.

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.