Lab Staff

Principal Investigators

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Nathalie Maitre, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, Director of NICU Follow-up Programs, Director of Music Therapy Program, Director of the Baby Brain Optimization Project & Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research
Nathalie.Maitre@NationwideChildrens.org

Nathalie Maitre, MD, PhD, is a neonatologist and physician-scientist with a long-standing commitment to neurodevelopmental follow-up with passion for research impacting the long-term outcomes of NICU graduates. She is the Director of the NICU Follow-up Program and NICU Music Therapy Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and leads a diverse team of scientists, engineers, and therapists who believe strongly in the need to identify children at high-risk for disabilities as early as possible to optimize recovery after brain insults of the neonatal period. Dr. Maitre’s research program focuses on developing research-based strategies to maximize every child’s potential, followed by rapid translation to clinical practice.

  • Research emphasizes the development of objective and quantitative measures of neural function in infants and children to allow the rational design and testing of neuroprotective/habilitative strategies. 
  • She has developed novel techniques to measure cortical processing of speech sound differentiation and tactile modalities in NICU patients and designed parental-speech based interventions to improve outcomes. 
  • She is particularly interested in the sensory system of infants and children and how it can be harnessed to design new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. 
  • Current NIH funded clinical trials of rehabilitation in preterm infants or infants with neonatal neural injury with cerebral palsy focus on mechanistically-driven and parent-supported sensory motor interventions.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Kristen Benninger, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Neonatology Specialty, Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research
Kristen.Benninger@NationwideChildrens.org

Kristen L Benninger, MD, MSc, is a Neonatologist and Principal Investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University. Dr. Benninger completed her residency and neonatology fellowship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. During fellowship, she also completed a Master of Science in Medical Science (MSc) providing a formal foundation in research methods and design, biostatistics, clinical trials operations and grant and scientific writing.

Dr. Benninger has experience in the neurodevelopmental follow-up of NICU infants, the use of evidence-based, standardized neurodevelopmental assessments and in leading prospective research studies. She has led trainings in the Hammersmith Neonatal Neurological Examination (HNNE) and Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination (HINE). Research interests include neuroimaging and long-term neurodevelopment of infants with prenatal opioid exposure and studies of new neuroprotective therapies in infants with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Current projects include: 1) A large prospective cohort study investigating the neurodevelopmental impact of prenatal opioid exposure in infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS); 2) A study of MRI and EEG in infants with NAS to better understand the neural correlates of prenatal opioid exposure, and; 3) Development of the “Connecting Care for NAS” tablet-based app to facilitate screening and referral to appropriate developmental specialists and local resources for infants and children with a history of NAS.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Mary Lauren Neel, MD, MSCI
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology & Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research
MaryLauren.Neel@NationwideChildrens.org

Mary Lauren Neel, MD, MSCI is a neonatologist and physician-scientist committed to the improvement of neurodevelopmental outcomes of former preterm infants through the design and implementation of rigorously studied and mechanistically-based parenting interventions. My research focus is at the intersection of medicine and psychology, in line with my training history. My early education was in cognitive developmental psychology studying the acquisition of language in young children in the Vanderbilt University Language Development Lab. My interest in long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes solidified as I learned from patients and families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and NICU follow up clinics during pediatric residency and neonatology fellowship. While in fellowship, I concurrently completed Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) and my research was funded on a T-32. My interest shifted from prognostication of outcomes, a more traditional neonatal follow-up pursuit, to the design of interventions to improve these outcomes. I have published and studied associations between parenting styles and subsequent neurodevelopmental outcomes and am beginning to include neural and behavioral measures in my work, under the guidance of my mentors. I am currently funded on a Thrasher Research Fund Early Career Award. My goal is to promote the best possible outcomes for NICU patients and their families through evidence-based and targeted early interventions for parents of preterm infants.

Lance Relland

Lance Relland, MD, PhD
Anesthesiologist, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, The Ohio State University & Principal Investigator, the Abigail Wexner Research Institute

Lance M. Relland, MD, PhD, is an Anesthesiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, and Principal Investigator in the Center for Clinical and Translational Research in The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at NCH. He is also Principal Investigator in the Baby Brain Optimization Project at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and in an NIH-funded Small Business Innovation Research program. Dr. Relland has dual board certification in anesthesiology and pediatric anesthesiology, and advanced training in pediatric regional anesthesiology and acute pain management. He has expertise in immunology, anesthesia, and pain assessment and treatment. His primary focus is on patient-oriented research in neonates, infants, and young children in the critical care and perioperative setting. His research interests include using brain-oriented measures to characterize objectively the effects of various types of anesthetic techniques in the youngest of patients in order to provide tailored treatments that optimize brain growth and development.

Celine Richard, MD, PhD

Celine Richard, MD, PhD
Principal Investigator, the Abigail Wexner Research Institute

Celine Richard, MD, PhD, is a Research Scientist in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her research interests include hearing development, multisensory processing in both normal-hearing and hearing-impaired populations.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Amanda T. Whitaker, MD
Principal Investigator, the Abigail Wexner Research Institute

Amanda T. Whitaker, MD, is a clinical associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University as well as the director of the gait lab and analysis of the Honda Center for Gait and Mobility Enhancement. She is native to central Ohio. She received her medical degree with special qualifications in biomedical research from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. After completing her residency at the University of California San Francisco, she did her pediatric orthopaedic fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her clinical and research interests include cerebral palsy, pediatric neuromuscular conditions, gait, and metabolic bone diseases/osteogenesis imperfecta.

Principal Investigators and International Partners

Micah Murray

Micah M. Murray, PhD

Dr. Murray (Director, the Laboratory for Investigative Neurophysiology, Lausanne, Switzerland) has been one of our strongest collaborators in analysis and design in the neuroscience of multisensory processing. Much of our joint research is shown in our Netflix documentary.

Learn more about Dr. Murray

Sasha Key

Alexandra (Sasha) Key, PhD

Research Associate Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Associate Director, IDDRC Translational Neuroimaging Core C; Director, VKC Psychophysiology Lab.

 

Paul Yoder

Paul Yoder, PhD

Learn more about Dr. Yoder

Faculty and Staff

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Kathleen Adderley, MM, MT-BC
NICU Music Therapist

Kathleen Adderley, MM, MT-BC, is a music therapist in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Kathleen received her master’s degree in Music Therapy from Florida State University in 2018. She joined the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab in December 2019 where her role is to provide research music therapy sessions within the NICU.

Nancy Batterson

Nancy Batterson, OT/L, SCFES, CLC
Occupational Therapist

Nancy Batterson, OT/L, SCFES, CLC, is an occupational therapist in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She received her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Nancy has been practicing in occupational therapy for 30 years and has the AOTA Specialty Certification of Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing and is a Certified Lactation Counselor. Nancy works in the outpatient Occupational Therapy Department as well as the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Her research interests include early detection and treatment of cerebral palsy, motor development of premature and at risk infants, and feeding, eating and swallowing with the premature, neurological impaired or at risk infant. Nancy currently works on a variety of projects within the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab including the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Mother’s Voice Research Study, NAS study, and constraint induced movement therapy studies.

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Stephanie Burkhardt, MPH, CCRC
Project Manager

Stephanie Burkhardt, MPH, CCRC, is Project Manager and certified research coordinator with over 6-years of experience in the BBOP neurodevelopmental research lab within the Center for Perinatal Research in the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She plays a key role in managing all research projects and personnel. Her interests are focused on quality improvement projects surrounding early detection of Cerebral Palsy. She is involved in the Early Detection initiative, led by NCH and managed by the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, which is the first network in the US to implement international guidelines for early detection in NICU Follow-Up programs. Prior to her current role, Stephanie was a research coordinator for the Ohio Perinatal Research Network and at the National Institutes of Health.

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Chelsie Doster, BS
Research Assistant

Chelsie Doster is an EEG Research Assistant for the Center of Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is a recent graduate from the University of Saint Francis with a degree in exercise science and a minor in psychology. In the years to come, she plans on working towards becoming a physician’s scientist and continuing research on neurodevelopment and parenting. Her role in the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab is to collect and analyze EEG data for all inpatient and outpatient studies.

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Lelia Emery, MMT, MT-BC
NICU Music Therapist

Lelia Emery earned her Master of Music Therapy from Shenandoah University with an emphasis on music therapy and developmental milestone acquisition in older infants hospitalized in a NICU. Within the Baby Brain Optimization Project, her role is to both coordinate and implement study sessions utilizing the Pacifier Activated Lullaby in the NICU and support outpatient ERP visits for infants and toddlers. Her research interests include neuroregulatory, developmental, and procedural support for NICU infants across the spectrum of care. In addition to her research and clinical responsibilities, Lelia serves as the NCH Music Therapy Internship Director.

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Kaleigh Hague, MA, MT-BC
NICU Music Therapist

Kaleigh Hague, MA, MT-BC, is a NICU Music Therapist in Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab. She received her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Ohio University and graduated with a Master of Arts degree from Berklee College of Music in 2019. Kaleigh has completed training from the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) as well as from the Institute of Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy (NICU MT) and is experienced in providing specialized interventions to support infant neurodevelopment and neurorehabilitation. She is involved in several inpatient NICU and outpatient research initiatives aimed to develop therapies that support the neurodevelopment of premature infants. Her research interests include using music-based interventions to impact developmental trajectories of high-risk infants in the NICU, as well as studying the effect of music-based treatment on infant stress during bedside procedures.

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Arnaud Jeanvoine, PhD
Director of Research and Development
Arnaud.Jeanvoine@NationwideChildrens.org

Arnaud Jeanvoine, PhD, is the Director of Research and Development in the BBOP research laboratory. Prior to joining the BBOP Team, his previous research in Lyon, France and Lausanne, Switzerland was based on denoising audio signals and using EEG techniques on speech evoked auditory brainstem response in adults with normal hearing and deaf adults. Current research in the BBOP Lab is based on analysis of EEG data and applying new technology including inverse solution and machine learning to neurodevelopmental research, but he is also currently involved in multiple studies in the lab.

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Julia Less, MPH
Research Associate

Julia Less, MPH, received her BS in Community Health in 2013 and her MPH, Epidemiology specialty in 2016 from The Ohio State University. She joined the Baby Brain Optimization Lab in 2018 where she primarily coordinates the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Study. Julia loves working with patients and their families, where her background includes working with children for the past 5 years in healthcare and education settings.

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Katelyn Levengood, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist

Katelyn Levengood, PT, DPT, is a Physical Therapist in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She received her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Slippery Rock University. Katelyn has worked as a pediatric physical therapist since 2015. She currently works in the outpatient physical therapy department as well as perinatal research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her research interests include early detection and treatment of cerebral palsy and motor development of premature and at risk infants. Katelyn currently works on a variety of projects with the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab including the NAS study, constraint induced movement therapy (CIMT) studies, climbing camp for children with cerebral palsy, and the early detection of cerebral palsy project.

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Dennis Lewandowski, PhD
Research Writer/Editor

Dennis Lewandowski, PhD, is a Research Writer/Editor in the Center for Perinatal Research in the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dennis held faculty positions as a plant virologist at the University of Florida and The Ohio State University prior to joining NCH in 2016. Within the Baby Brain Optimization Lab, he focuses on manuscript editing and writing, and has taken on more responsibilities for coordinating educational activities for lab personnel, including working with junior members of the BBOP lab to improve their scientific writing and presentation skills.

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Megan Lightfoot, MT-BC
Music Therapist

Megan Lightfoot, MT-BC, is a music therapist in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her research interests include developing therapies impacting infant neurodevelopment, multisensory processing, and supporting studies focused on neural-based rehabilitative therapies for children and infants. In the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab, her role involves conducting and coordinating research therapy sessions in the NICU as well as providing support for outpatient visits.

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Mary Ann Nelin, MD, FAAP
Staff Physician, Division of Ambulatory Medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University

Dr. Nelin is a general pediatrician who spent 9.5 years in the Neonatal Follow-up Clinic following infants at high risk for neurodevelopmental delay. She is a member of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine and has been involved in committee work through the Academy. She is certified by the General Movements Trust (GM Trust) for the Basic Training Course on "Prechtl's Method on the Qualitative Assessment of General Movements" and serves as a neurological examiner for the NICHD NRN Follow-up Study, focusing on babies previously lost to follow-up. As part of BBOP team, she performs the Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination on children in the Constraint Induced Movement Therapy Study and is certified to perform fine and gross motor portions of the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition.

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Caitlin Pennington, MT-BC
NICU Music Therapist

Caitlin Pennington, MT-BC, is a NICU Music Therapist in the Center for Perinatal Research and is currently pursuing her PhD in Speech and Hearing Science at The Ohio State University. Her research interests include the impact of the auditory environment on overall infant neurodevelopment as well as developing neuroprotective and habilitative music therapy interventions for premature infants and infants with neurologic insults. Within the Baby Brain Optimization Project, Caitlin is involved on both the inpatient and outpatient sides of studies.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Lindsay Pietruszewski, DPT
Physical Therapist

Lindsay Pietruszewski, DPT, is a Physical Therapist in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She studied molecular biology as an undergraduate and received her DPT from the University of Southern California in 2014. She has worked as a pediatric physical therapist in private practice, school, and hospital settings. Her research interests include motor learning and neurorehabilitation of infants and children with cerebral palsy. She is involved in many different projects in the Baby Brain Optimization Lab, including providing intervention for the APPLES and REACH studies, administering neurologic and developmental assessments in the lab and throughout Ohio as part of the Neonatal Research Network, and investigating clinical tools and assessments used in early detection and diagnosis of cerebral palsy.

Jessica Purnell

Jess Purnell, BS, CCRC
EEG Team Lead

Jess Purnell, BS, CCRC, is the EEG Team Lead in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She studied Molecular Genetics and Epidemiology at The Ohio State University and plans to obtain her PhD in Epidemiology. She started her career in clinical research with the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative before taking a position as a clinical research coordinator in the Ohio Perinatal Research Network at NCH. In the Baby Brain Optimization Project, she manages the EEG team and is the coordinator for the HEAL clinical drug trial.

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Erica Riley, BSN, RN
RN Clinical Coordinator

Erica Riley, BSN, RN, is an RN clinical coordinator in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has been with the BBOP Lab since November 2019. Prior to her job in research, she worked in the Emergency Room at Grant Medical Center. She is excited to be a part of the BBOP group and start her dream of becoming a research nurse. When she is not at work she is at home with her husband, three children and dog.

Students

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Sophia Banez 
Research Aide

Sophia Banez is a Research Aide in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Sophia is working towards her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Science at The Ohio State University. Upon graduation, she plans to earn her doctorate of occupational therapy. Sophia is particularly fascinated by early cognitive development and fine motor skills in the research setting. She is a part of the Social Media Team and helps with several projects in the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab.

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Ashley Jutte
Research Aide

Ashley Jutte is a Research Aide in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Ashley Jutte is pursuing a music therapy degree through Ohio University, and plans to complete her internship in a medical setting. Her research interests include early childhood, music, and psychology. In the Baby Brain Optimization Project Lab, her role consists of assisting on a variety of projects, data entry, and data collection.

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Emma Kasich
Research Aide

Emma Kasich is a Research Aide in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Emma is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University studying psychology with plans to go on to medical school. Her role in the Baby Brain Optimization Project consists of assisting on a variety of projects, data entry, and data collection. She is fascinated by the inpatient studies and specifically our research with early cognitive development.

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Maeve McLoughlin
Research Aide

Maeve McLoughlin is a Graduate Student Research Aide in the Center for Perinatal Research of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from The Ohio State University in 2019 and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology at The Ohio State University. In the years to come, she plans on going to medical school and continuing her research on critical care and pain management. Her role in the Baby Brain Optimization Project consists of assisting on a variety of projects specifically in data acquisition and entry.