Focus Group Members

Nationwide Children's Hospital Faculty

Amanda E. Graf, MD

Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University

Dr. Graf’s laboratory investigates mechanisms of perinatal brain injury with a long-term goal of decreasing the incidence and severity of neurodevelopmental impairment in very preterm infants. Current preclinical studies are aimed at understanding the impact of maternal inflammation and neonatal oxidant stress on the developing brain, particularly with respect to the role of Nurr1 expression. Future studies will examine the effects of inflammation due to maternal obesity on neurodevelopment of the offspring. Improved understanding of mechanisms of injury is necessary for the discovery of predictive biomarkers for early identification and subsequent development of novel therapeutic strategies for those infants at greatest risk of neurodevelopmental impairment. Involvement in the Perinatal Brain Injury & Development Group

Christopher R. Pierson, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pathology, Nationwide Children's Hospital

Dr. Pierson trained in the combined Children’s Hospital, Boston and Brigham & Women’s Hospital Neuropathology training program. He is a board certified neuropathologist with expertise in acquired and developmental perinatal disorders, especially in the neuropathology of white matter and hemorrhagic lesions.

Irina Buhimschi, PhD

Director, Center for Perinatal Research, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

Nehal Parikh, DO

Associate Professor, Division of Neonatology
Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

Nahla Zaghloul, MD

Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology
Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Jenn Gonya, PHD

Principal Investigator, Center for Perinatal Research, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

Laurel Slaughter, MD

Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neurology

The Ohio State University Faculty

Brad Bolon, DVM, MS, PhD

Veterinary Pathologist
Associate Professor
Associate Director, Comparative Pathology and Mouse Phenotyping Shared Resource
The Ohio State University

Dr. Brad Bolon, a comparative pathologist, holds DVM and MS (developmental neurotoxicology) degrees from the University of Missouri and a PhD (developmental neuropathology) from Duke University. He worked in industry for 11 years and as an independent consultant for 7 years before joining The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011 to perform collaborative research, service, and teaching. He has written prolifically and is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences on his twin interests of mouse phenotyping (particularly in embryos, fetuses, and placentas) and
toxicologic neuropathology. 

Darryl B. Hood, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine
Division of Environmental Health Sciences, College of Public Health

My laboratory has been interested in interrogating hypotheses on the mechanisms of environmental neurotoxicity for over a decade. Our studies have been timely and have shed novel information on the health consequences associated with in utero exposures to benzo(a)pyene during critical developmental stages. The seminal work conducted in our laboratory demonstrated for the first time, the functional impact of in utero benzo(a)pyrene exposure on later-life behavioral phenotypes mediated by maturing glutamatergic cortical circuits. From our work, the field has learned that postnatal brain development requires input from the environment in order to induce the release of glutamate and thereby promote critical aspects of synaptic maturation. Our most impactful paper demonstrated that it is during the process of postnatal synaptogenesis (P1-P14) that the effects of in utero B(a)P exposure on neural activity alter the temporal expression of glutamatergic genes. We have shown that each of the NMDA subunits have a unique temporal expression profile. Moreover, this work also demonstrated that in utero exposure to B(a)P for a restricted time period (E14-E17) is sufficient to generate long-term changes in key regulators of glutamatergic signaling after birth, which in conjunction with other molecular disruptions, manifest as behavioral deficit phenotypes. Our early work demonstrated that prenatal B(a)P exposure has functional consequences which are manifested by perturbations in the thalamo-cortical synaptic drive and disruptions in primary sensory functions. Further refinement of the object discrimination task as a screen to measure prefrontal and limbic circuit integrity, has proved to be useful to the field as this behavior is negatively impacted subsequent by in utero B(a)P exposure. The laboratory is currently moving to a spatial discrimination-reversal task that is expected to highlight the perturbations and the pervasive impact of in utero exposure to benzo(a)pyrene on glutamatergic cortical circuits, which may be due, in part to the disruption of cortical imprinting genes.

Ashley Weber, PhD(c), MS, RN

Doctoral Candidate
The Ohio State University College of Nursing

Ms. Weber’s experiences as a staff nurse in the Nationwide Children's NICU inspired her to choose improvement of neurodevelopmental outcomes in premature infants as the focus of her research program. Her doctoral dissertation is the first in a series of studies which will address the impact of stress on outcomes, mediated by the hormone oxytocin. Her dissertation examines relationships between oxytocin levels and conditions of early premature infant experience in the NICU that have been linked to neurodevelopmental outcomes in this population. She plans to devote her career to developing evidence-based nursing interventions which promote early and developmentally supportive caregiver-infant interactions and improve premature infant brain development. 

Jonathan Godbout, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University 

Jose Otero, M.D., PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Pathology, Division of Neuropathology
College of Medicine, The Ohio State University