The Synapse: Your Connection to MIDB News

The Synapse: June 2023

Connecting Across the University

Did you know there are approximately 80 departments from three U of M campuses affiliated with the MIDB? One of these partnering departments is Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts.

This department's world-renowned researchers partner with students and members of the community to conduct and disseminate cutting-edge studies of speech, language, and hearing abilities across the lifespan. This includes both basic research and applied scholarship in speech-language pathology and audiology. Their work encompasses the full range of human behavior, from neural planning to real-world human behavior.

MIDB-affiliated researchers from Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences include:

  • Dr. Kerry Ebert, whose research focuses on the cognitive-linguistic profiles of bilingual and monolingual children with developmental language disorder and implications for effective assessment and treatment services.
  • Dr. Lizbeth Finestack, who is working to identify efficient and effective language interventions for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, including children with developmental language disorder, Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, or autism spectrum disorder. She has built a research program focused on developing new child language intervention techniques, better understanding the language profiles of children and adolescents with differing neurodevelopmental disorders, and measuring intervention outcomes of individuals with different language and cognitive profiles.
  • Dr. Benjamin Munson, who studies how children with and without speech, language, and hearing impairments learn how to speak in ways that convey their social identity (especially related to gender and racial identity), and how they perceive social and personal identity through speech and language.
  • Dr. Melissa Polonenko, who is developing new ways to assess hearing, vestibular, and multi-sensory function and to evaluate outcomes with hearing devices (hearing aids, cochlear implants) -- ultimately supporting children’s developmental trajectory and improving their interactions within their environment and with the people around them.

We are thrilled to connect with Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and many other departments throughout the University. By working together, we can truly make a difference in advancing brain health from the earliest stages of development across the lifespan, to support each person’s journey as a valued community member.

conference research poster

MIDB Well-Represented at International Society for Autism Research Conference

A large number of MIDB members and students presented at last month's International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) conference in Stockholm, Sweden. The annual conference is intended to provide autism researchers from around the world with a focused opportunity to share the rapidly moving scientific investigation of autism. "Having strong representation at the leading international autism research conference has firmly put MIDB on the map as a leading autism research center," said Casey Burrows, PhD, LP. "It felt like everywhere I went, I saw some impact of MIDB, either by running into former MIDB trainees, expanding my network through MIDB connections, or seeing talks that align with the research that's happening at MIDB." Read more about MIDB's impact at the conference.



  • Mia Kellman and Alana Lieske received Top Poster awards at the June 13 MINDS (Minnesota Inclusive Neuroscience Development Scholars) Post-Baccalaureate and Research Technician Poster Session. Other MIDB research staff who participated in the poster session included Jess Emerick, Hannah Shryer, Alexis Shuck, and Dante Rogers. Michaelle DiMaggio-Potter, Kerry Houlihan, and Aurora Green provided oral presentations. Read more about MIDB's presence at the event

  • Raghavendra (Raghu) Rao, MD, professor and director, Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, is the recipient of the Midwest Society for Pediatric Research (MSPR) 2023 Founders Award for Outstanding Service to Pediatric Research. The award is the highest honor given by the MSPR and recognizes contributions made in the development of the careers of academic pediatricians and in the advancement of pediatric research. Read more about Rao.

  • Helen Vuong, PhD, a member of MIDB's Translational Hub and assistant professor of Pediatrics, has been selected as a 2023 Pew Biomedical Scholar. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health. Read more about Vuong.
Emily Padrutt

Advancing the Understanding of Intergenerational Transmission of Depression

Meet Emily Padrutt, a second-year doctoral student in the developmental psychopathology and clinical science track in the Institute of Child Development, working with Sylia Wilson, PhD, and  Daniel Berry, EdD. Padrutt was recently selected as MIDB's Predoctoral Fellow in Developmental Science for 2023-24. "I was very excited to learn that MIDB was offering the Predoctoral Fellowship opportunity and honored to receive the fellowship! The support provided by the fellowship will allow me to focus my time in the coming year on developing my existing research projects and growing my program of research with the mentorship of Dr. Wilson," said Padrutt. "It will also allow me dedicated time for writing and dissemination of my research projects and the opportunity to share my work at a conference in the coming year." Read more about Padrutt and her work on the intergenerational transmission of depression.

LEND class collage

Meet the LEND Class of 2023

When the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (MNLEND) graduates received their certificates in a ceremony on May 25, it marked completion of the 15th cohort under the direction of the Institute on Community Integration. It was also a significant milestone toward the national LEND program’s goal of providing long-term, graduate-level interdisciplinary training that improves policies and services for people with developmental disabilities. Read more about the MNLEND graduates and watch this video highlighting the 2022-23 MN LEND Fellows interests, projects, and wishes for the future.

NICU Follow-up Clinic

Clinical Spotlight: NICU Follow-Up Clinic

The first few years of life are an important time for healthy growth and development for children who required intensive care as babies. MHealth Fairview offers NICU follow-up care, aimed at providing ongoing evaluation and guidance related to growth and development during these important years. Children who required intensive care may be at higher risk for problems in growth and development. The goal of the NICU Follow-Up Clinic is to ensure children are developing to the best of their ability and early identification of areas of concern. Learn more about the clinic.

Research on Creativity and the Adolescent Brain at the U of M

The World Inside You: Research on Creativity and the Adolescent Brain at the U of M

This spring, the Weisman Art Museum presented the World Inside You, an exhibition of artwork made by Creativity Camp participants. The exhibition mirrored the Creativity Camp’s overarching theme: an invitation to traverse “the world inside you.” A Community Celebration was held May 6 to recognize the artists and researchers behind the exhibition. "It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with our adolescent participants, their families and the broader community, to celebrate the amazing artwork that our adolescents created, and share what we've been learning in this research," said Kathryn Cullen, MD, an investigator for the Creativity Camp study and associate professor and director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Read more about The World Inside You.

abstract painting

MIDB Artwork Spotlight: Original Abstract Paintings

The paintings "Synaptic Imagination 2 B" and "La Nouvelle Normalite': Vision Un (The New Normal: Vision One)" are now part of MIDB's permanent art collection. Created by Sean G. Phillips (seangarrison), the original pieces are acrylic on canvas. A native Detroiter currently residing in Minneapolis, seangarrison is a writer and abstract painter in which both disciplines cross-influence the other. A self-taught artist, he feels that all artists should have a foundational understanding of art but art is conceived in the soul of the artist which precludes an academic knowledge. seangarrison also joined the Imagination Central program this spring as a guest artist to work with adolescents participating in the research study about creativity held at MIDB. He says, "Working with the young people of Imagination Central was nothing short of magical. Watching what stirred inside of them come to life on canvas was like breathing for me." Read more about seangarrison.


Impact, The Anniversary Issue: 35, Counting

The Institute on Community Integration’s flagship publication, Impact, celebrates 35 years as a research-to-practice guide for the field of intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities in the current feature issue. ICI Director Amy Hewitt, PhD, along with each former director, reflect on the publication’s growth and relevance over time. Now available in print and accessible digital formats, with the digital edition available in English and Spanish, Impact has embraced continuous improvement to remain relevant, Hewitt said. “Impact has stood the test of time because it stays true to its mission of focusing on community priorities and connecting research to policy and practice,” Hewitt said. “From its earliest days, the publication has included the perspective of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities themselves.” Read the current issue.

food truck

Save-the-Dates: MIDB Summer Appreciation Food Service Events

MIDB will host a food truck located onsite just south of the circle roundabout from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the dates below. Open to all, please join us!

Fun fact: Chef Lucas was recently featured on ABC's Good morning America!

Other News

Picture of two trainees
Nhi Lang, a second year medical student, received a University of Minnesota Foundation Medical Student Research Grant to work with  MIDB…
MIDB MRI room with Seascape imagery
MIDB is the first Minnesota facility to partner with RxART to enhance its physical environment through visual art.
Illustration of the thought processes in the brain
The new MIDB Precision Brain Atlas is an open resource of functional neural networks from over 9,900 individuals across ages and cohorts.