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People in Mental Health and Clinical Neuroscience

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Sally Thornton

Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

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Biography

Postdoctoral Research Fellow; Hearing Sciences, The University of Nottingham, UK (2019 - present)

Designed, set-up and led the study to determine if cortisol is a biomarker for stress in people with hearing loss.

  • Set-up the biomarker lab to analyse hair and salivary cortisol and developed the tools to measure hair cortisol concentration.

  • Tested reliability of measuring hair cortisol concentrations in men and women; teenagers, middle-aged and elderly, and different ethnicities.

  • Manage people and resources and am Person Designate for human tissue.

Designed and set-up protocol for the database to investigated risk factors and neurodevelopmental outcomes for children with hearing loss who have graduated from the neonatal intensive care unit - NICU.

  • Led the clinical and academic team to set-up a Paediatric database with intensivists, Hearing Science academics and paediatric consultants.

  • Formed links with Prof Sung in Melbourne, Australia to use their Paediatric database to investigate quality of life in children with hearing loss.

Principle Investigator: Dr Sally Thornton; Line Manager, Dr Derek Hoare

Career break from auditory neuroscience to raise family;

(2002 - 2019)

  • During career break to raise my family I worked with children who have additional needs and taught school science.

  • Worked with the vulnerable as an assessor at the Citizens Advice Bureaux.

  • Worked in environmental research (Vancouver, Canada), teaching Archaeology and local history at Vancouver Museum.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow; Dept. of Physiology, The University of Newcastle, UK (1998 - 2002)

  • Pioneered a novel technique to combine single cellular neurophysiological recordings and inactivation techniques to investigate inhibitory and excitatory circuitry in the inferior colliculus.

  • Blocking glutaminergic receptors in the midbrain caused shifts in interaural level difference functions in the inferior colliculus.

Line Manager, Prof Adrian Rees

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (NIH International Scholar); Center for Neural Science, New York University, US (1995-1998)

  • Immunohistochemical techniques used to identify NMDA receptors in the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus

  • Set-up novel auditory physiology developmental rig to demonstrate development of motion detection cells in the inferior colliculus.

Line Managers: Prof Dan Sanes (development of motion detection) and Prof Mal Semple (lateral lemniscus)

PhD Auditory Neuroscience; Department of Physiology, University of Leeds, UK (1992 - 1995)

  • Extracellular multi- and single-unit neurophysiological recordings to investigate the development of auditory and visual space maps in the superior colliculus.

  • Increased the serotonergic input to the superior colliculus - using immunohistochemical techniques showed increased serotoninergic input that affected development of receptive fields and auditory space maps in the superior colliculus.

Supervisor: Prof Deborah Withington.

Expertise Summary

My current expertise is in utilising routinely collected data to determine health and hearing-related health outcomes for children with hearing loss.

I have liased with medical, research, database architects to design the first research database for children who were admitted to the NICU. Working with a strong team we are establishing this first database to discover novel risk factors for hearing loss but also biomarkers and new antenatal factors which may protect children from developing hearing loss.

My strengths lie in setting up novel lab-based work as I have a strong background in neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and immunohistochemistry, I am using my expertise to good effect to determine if cortisol is a biomarker for stress in people with hearing loss.

Teaching Summary

I have taught Physiology in both small, large groups and tutorials. I have demonstrated basic audiology to Medical students and have been the primary tutor for Sports Science and Physiology BSc… read more

Research Summary

I am currently working on a number of Paediatric and Adult studies

PAEDIATRIC STUDIES: With the consultants at City and QMC hospitals I have set-up a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) database where I am exploring the risk factors for hearing loss and also assessing the congenital anomalies associated with unilateral and bilateral hearing loss. We want to find out if children's developmental outcomes are associated with their hearing loss but also the number of congenital anomalies they have. To date we have shown that the number of congenital anomalies that come to light are often diagnosed late but that hearing loss, even unilateral hearing loss is a red flag for these anomalies and these children should be closely monitored from birth.

I am also setting up a database which will help explore the management and care of children with unilateral hearing loss. Our team is also exploring the day-to-day fatigue experienced by children with unilateral and bilateral hearing loss.

ADULT STUDIES: My adult studies concerns the physiological assessment of stress in adults with hearing loss. I am recording the cortisol concentration in hair of people with hearing loss and seeing if this chronic stress marker is associated with their current stress, anxiety and depression as assessed by surveys. we are currently assessing a number of factors which impact peoples stress levels and we will investigate novel associations with hair cortisol concentration.

I have taught Physiology in both small, large groups and tutorials. I have demonstrated basic audiology to Medical students and have been the primary tutor for Sports Science and Physiology BSc students. I have been a supervisor to five BMedSci students, they have all scored highly (I or 2(I)) on their projects. I currently supervise a F1 Doctor who is investigating the management of UHL in children and a PhD student who is studying fatigue in children with hearing loss.

Past Research

Previously I was a auditory neurophysiogist. I recorded the development of cellular responses in auditory and visual space maps in the superior colliculus. I later recorded inhibitory-excitatory receptive fields in the inferior colliculus and how this was affected by switching off the input from the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus.

I have worked in national (Leeds and Newcastle) and multinational laboratories (Canberra and New York) and published in a wide variety of journals and a book chapter.

Future Research

I am interested in biomarkers of hearing loss. How useful would these be for the early assessment of children, especially NICU graduates who are 10x more likely to be diagnosed with a hearing loss. I am also interested in the relationship between early neonatal infection, C-reactive protein levels and the later development of hearing loss.

I also plan to explore aspects of antenatal care which could be protective against hearing loss.

In my adult cortisol biomarker study I hope to understand how physiological measures of chronic stress relate to psychological aspects of a persons stress. I would like to see if resilience and insomnia affect a persons stress (physiologically and psychologically).

If we can find out which hearing or health-related aspects of stress impact people's cortisol levels and their psychological stress then we can try to find out what can impact their health and hearing and how we can improve the lives of people with hearing loss.

School of Medicine

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Nottingham, NG7 2UH

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