Campus Spotlight

Steven Threlkeld
Horace Mann Hall 312

Steven Threlkeld, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Year began at RIC: 2010

Students working on project:

Ethan Dugas, M.A, Psychology May 2012
Cynthia Gaudet, B.S., Biology and Math May 2012
Jason Lennox, B.A., Psychology May 2012
Molly La Rue, B.A., Psychology May 2013
Llian Mabardi, B.S., Biology May 2012

Project: Anti-inflammatory Intervention and Neurobehavioral Outcome in Neonatal Ischemia

Micaela Dunn, Jason Lennox, Cynthia Gaudet and Steven Threlkeld
at 2011 Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience poster session, Washington D.C.
(Society for Neuroscience satellite event)

Dr. Threlkeld is interested in the anatomical and behavioral consequences of abnormal brain development resulting from injury or teratogenic events in translational rodent models. Currently, funded by a RI-INBRE grant and in collaboration with Women and Infants' Hospital, Dr. Threlkeld and his students are investigating the effects of anti-inflammatory treatment (inter-alpha inhibitor protein) on neonatal cerebral hypoxia-ischemia (reduced oxygen and blood flow) commonly seen in preterm infants. The goal is to improve behavioral outcomes, including auditory processing, spatial learning, and working memory. Inflammation is one of the key factors implicated in developmental brain injury. With the majority of preterm infants exhibiting neurodevelopmental disorders with varying degrees of severity, assessing both the neural benefits and behavioral outcomes of novel treatment strategies is essential for the understanding of pathogenesis and its prevention.

According to Dr. Threlkeld, understanding the biological basis of complex behavior and neurological disorder is one of the great challenges of the early 21st century. The amazing discoveries in brain science of the 1990's provided immense insight into the anatomical, physiological and genetic elements underlying behavior, and gave rise to new sub-disciplines of neuroscience and new ways of translating basic research into clinical practice. One of the great problems persistent in modern society is the prevalence of preterm infancy concordant with severe neurobehavioral impairments. Disruption to the complex and dynamic process of early brain development leads to significant individual, familial, social and educational cost, as well as economic costs. Currently, there are few effective clinical treatments to prevent developmental brain injury.

"The research process is extremely rewarding," said Dr. Threlkeld. "Not only for its implications for human health but for the ability to show students how they can help solve important scientific problems with global implications." As with many scientists, Dr. Threlkeld's research motivates and informs his teaching. Engaging in hands-on neuroscience research gives students a chance to see how exciting science can be, and how they can have a real scientific impact. As Cynthia Gaudet, a Biology and Math major, says, "This experience has educated me more than books ever could. Dr. Threlkeld patiently taught us many research techniques and enabled all of us to get graduate level experiences."

For Dr. Threlkeld, teaching courses in research methods and physiological psychology, as well as engaging students directly in the lab, helps show students how diverse the field of psychology has become and the many scientific and medical challenges that future RIC graduates will help society overcome.

The project described was supported by the RI-INBRE Award # P20RR016457-11 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), NIH. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NCRR or the NIH.

Page last updated: Thursday, May 8, 2014