FIU Magazine recently covered scientists from across the disciplines—medicine, engineering, arts and sciences—who have dedicated their careers to studying mental processes in the healthy and the diseased human brain. Among them is FIU Stempel College Dean Tomás R. Guilarte.
Here is an excerpt from the article…
During 30 years at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and five as chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Tomás R. Guilarte studied the effects of chronic, early-life exposure to lead on brain function and behavior.
Today, the new dean of the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work continues his work on the subject with more than $7.5 million in active grant funding around his specializations in neurotoxicology, neuroimaging and environmentally induced neurological diseases. He uses behavioral, cellular and molecular approaches to reveal the effects of heavy metal exposure on the developing brain, focusing specifically on the molecular mechanisms by which lead poisoning impairs cognitive function.
Childhood lead intoxication currently presents a significant public health problem, not only in the United States—where the Centers for Disease Control estimate more than four million U.S. households could be affected—but around the world. The recent stories of lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich., make clear that dangers persist even after decades of concerted efforts in this country to remove sources of the toxin, among them lead-based paints and leaded gasoline.
“Lead is still found in homes and other buildings around us, affecting the people who are exposed, especially children,” Guilarte said. “Lead exposure still needs to be addressed because it can affect children throughout their lives, with consequences for them, their families, our schools and our communities.”
And while it’s understood that childhood lead exposure results in cognitive function deficits, much less is known about the neurological and mentalhealth consequences. Guilarte’s most recent studies indicate it could result in everything from lower IQ scores to schizophrenia in adolescence and adulthood.