The correlation between spirituality and health has long been recognized by many major religions, but proving that relationship is relatively new ground for scientific research. Exploring this ground is the calling of Dr. Brick Johnstone, professor and practicing neuropsychologist at MU’s Health Psychology department. From his clinical work at the Rusk Rehabilitation Center to his recent fellowship at Princeton’s Center for Theological Inquiry, Johnstone reaches across disciplines to expand our understanding of health and well-being, and he comes at it from a surprising direction: “The sciences absolutely have to be guided by the humanities,” he declares. “The humanities are much better at identifying the deep meanings and help get at the basis of human experience.”
A rainbow of feathers floats upward like a psychedelic butterfly. Fingers of color, violet and lime green, seem to flow outward from the tips of the wings. If you didn’t know better, you might assume it is a work of art. Beyond their beauty, for Shawn Christ these images taken at MU’s new Brain Imaging Center reveal the brain’s activity and connections. In his role as Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of MU’s Clinical Neuropsychology Laboratory, Christ studies how the relationship between the brain and behavior changes as we develop. Christ chose a career in psychology because it would combine two passions— working with kids and solving puzzles.
Up until now, most work with autism has been behavioral. Functional MRI opens up a whole new way of studying learning disabilities. “Now we’re looking directly at the brain,” Christ says.
Christ combines traditional neuropsychology measures with technology in order to examine brain disorders from many angles. Part of his lab is devoted to a clinic where Christ studies the behavior of children with autism and PKU using simple games.