Baylor Professors Receive Research Grants from Hogg Foundation for Mental Health
June 1, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas – Dr. David Eagleman and Dr. Mary Newsome, assistant professors at Baylor College of Medicine, are among 10 tenure-track faculty members in Texas to receive research grants totaling $150,000 from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
The one-year grants are capped at $15,000 each. The foundation received 35 proposals from faculty at 16 colleges and universities in Texas.
Eagleman will study the psychological, behavioral and neurological traits of people convicted of sex crimes. Newsome will determine why some at-risk youth who grow up in highly stressful conditions such as violence, poverty and abuse have greater resiliency than others in the same environment.
“We know that human behavior and mental health are affected by the brain, but more research is needed to understand how and why this happens. These studies may help answer these questions,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the foundation.
Criminally sexual behavior is a major mental health issue, Eagleman stated in his proposal. Identifying similarities in aggression, sexual deviancy, impulse control, brain patterns and other characteristics shared by people who commit sex crimes could lead to more effective treatment, sentencing and rehabilitation.
“A surprisingly large chasm exists between our legal system and our modern knowledge about the brain and behavior. This project will provide scientists and lawmakers with important insights into the underlying mental health of sexually criminal behavior,” Eagleman said.
Eagleman, an assistant professor of neuroscience and psychiatry, founded and directs the college’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He also is a faculty affiliate in the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center.
Children who experience significant adversity and hardships are at greater risk of dropping out of school, using drugs, entering the juvenile justice system, and having post-traumatic stress disorder, attention problems and depression. Yet some adapt and become productive, competent adults, Newsome said in her proposal. She will work with colleagues to identify key psychological and cognitive factors that make the difference.
“This topic has important implications for the well-being of adolescents at risk for mental health disorders and poor outcomes in educational achievement and social integration,” Newsome said. “Greater understanding of the characteristics associated with resilience in at-risk youth could lead to more effective services and, ultimately, more successful outcomes for these youth.”
Newsome is an assistant professor and member of a research team at the college’s Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.
The Hogg Foundation was founded in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James Hogg to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas. The foundation’s grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education projects in Texas.