Students present research findings at 9th annual Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences

Michigan State University students Marissa Cortright and Emily Castillo presented a poster at the 9th annual Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE), held July 24 at Spartan Stadium. Their poster, “Perceived Invasiveness of Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions as Treatment for Clinical Depression,” presented research from an ongoing NIH BRAIN Initiative grant related to the ethical concerns and attitudes toward the use of psychiatric electroceutical interventions (PEIs) in treatment resistant depression.

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Image description: Emily Castillo (left) and Marissa Cortright (right) pose for a photo with their poster at Mid-SURE on July 24. Photo courtesy of Peggy Anderson.

Cortright and Castillo, who are both majoring in neuroscience, have been working with MSU faculty mentors Laura Cabrera, Robyn Bluhm, Aaron McCright, and Eric Achytes. Their poster specifically addressed the invasiveness of multiple PEIs­—electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), deep brain stimulation (DBS), and adaptive brain implants (ABI)—based on the analysis of semi-structured interviews with Michigan-based psychiatrists. Cortright and Castillo concluded that the results of the interview analysis “suggest that while physical features are key for assessments of invasiveness, psychological, emotional, and lifestyle effects also play an important role.”

Cortright and Castillo both enjoyed the experience of presenting at Mid-SURE. “It provided a positive and engaging environment to share my work on the project as well as develop my professional skills,” said Castillo, adding, “I left the day feeling inspired and excited to keep working on a topic that is not only important me, but relevant and meaningful to many others.”

With attendees and presenters from many institutions and disciplines, Mid-SURE provided an opportunity to share research and network with a wide variety of individuals. “Many people were excited to learn about the PEIs and the potential to help lots of patients with treatment resistant depression,” said Cortright. “I learned that many people were interested in other segments of our project, and were anticipating the further research and results. I also learned that many people had no idea that PEIs even existed, and were extremely interested in the psychiatrist perspective on these therapies.”

“By sharing the research findings, I learned how different backgrounds can influence how data is interpreted across different disciplines,” said Castillo. “For example, I had an interesting conversation with a chemist who was curious about how the use of magnets or electrical stimulation can alter the chemical balance of the brain and how that relates to invasiveness. I thought this was an interesting question and enjoyed learning about how he interpreted the data coming from a chemistry background.”

Castillo continued: “My interactions with the other students and professors sparked great conversations about the stigma surrounding PEIs and mental illness. It reminded me how critical this research is in educating the public and informing future guidelines and policies surrounding these treatments.”

As the second year of the project approaches, Cortright and Castillo look forward to continuing the research and analysis. “I’m looking forward to looking deeper into the other neuroethical considerations and understanding how these topics vary between psychiatrists, patients, and the general public,” shared Castillo.

Please visit the project webpage to learn more about the NIH BRAIN Initiative grant “Is the Treatment Perceived to be Worse than the Disease?: Ethical Concerns and Attitudes towards Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions,” led by Center Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera.

Teaching bioethics to a large number of biology and pharma students: Lessons learned

Laura Cabrera photoCenter Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera is a co-author of the article “Teaching bioethics to a large number of biology and pharma students: Lessons learned,” published online ahead of print in Ethics & Behavior.

The article is authored by Sabrina Engel-Glatter, Laura Y. Cabrera, Yousri Marzouki, and Bernice S. Elger.

Abstract: In order to be made aware of bioethical issues related to their disciplines, undergraduate students in biology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of XXX are required to enroll in the bioethics course “Introduction to Bioethics”. This paper describes the chances and challenges faced when teaching a large number of undergraduate biology and pharmaceutical sciences students. Attention is drawn to the relevance and specific ethical issues that biology and pharmaceutical sciences students may be confronted with, and how these could be integrated into ethics curricula. Results from a survey addressing the knowledge and opinion of students taking the course in spring semester 2012, 2013, and 2014 are presented and discussed. Finally, we describe the lessons learned and how we have improved the course based on students’ feedback throughout the following years.

The full text is available online through Taylor & Francis.