Dr. Christopher Newland of the Auburn University Department of Psychology will give this year’s Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lecture, “Why a Clean Environment Matters: The Behavioral Impact of Environmental Contaminants.”
The lecture, sponsored jointly by Alumni Affairs and the Graduate School, will be at 3:00 pm on October 18, 2011, in Langdon Hall. A reception will follow in Hargis Hall, next door to Langdon.
A graduate of Auburn’s engineering school, Chris Newland completed his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Georgia Tech in 1982, with a dual minor in neurobiology and mathematics. He was a postdoctoral fellow and Research Associate in Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Rochester in what is now the Department of Environmental Medicine. He joined Auburn’s Psychology Department in 1988 and was honored to be an Alumni Professor from 2001-2006. Dr. Newland’s research has been supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Drug Abuse (NIDA), and Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the Environmental Protection Agency. He has served on panels for the National Research Council, EPA, and FDA to evaluate and review policies for exposure to neurotoxic substances as well as on editorial boards for key journals in behavioral science and neurotoxicology. He teaches courses in neuroscience, psychopharmacology, and behavioral toxicology. His primary research activity is focused on experimental models of methylmercury’s neurotoxicity across the entire lifespan, but his broader research interests include psychopharmacology and basic research on fundamental behavioral processes.
Two disasters in the twentieth century had enormous impacts on society and on public health, yet they barely register in our public awareness. One was the addition of lead to paint and gasoline. While lead continues to be a problem, its removal from these sources has resulted in a large, if silent, improvement in our well-being. An episode in Minamata, Japan, in which industrial releases of methylmercury poisoned a fishing village, showed us that the developing brain is especially vulnerable to chemical exposure. Exposures that occur early in development have consequences that last a lifetime and, in some cases, may even lie dormant until the challenges of aging present themselves. Subsequent laboratory investigations, including some conducted at Auburn, have deepened our understanding of what was evident in long-term studies of exposed populations: these contaminants may accelerate aging and, in younger individuals, cause profound deficits in everyday behavior and academic skills. Early lead exposure may even elevate the risk of criminal activity. Yet these effects are sometimes difficult to detect and link to exposure. Chris Newland will address these issues, describing how we link experimental studies of these neurotoxic compounds with our understanding of their impact on exposed populations to formulate regulations about their presence in our environment.