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Craig Ramey, PhD, and Sharon Ramey, PhD

Craig Ramey, PhD, and Sharon Ramey, PhD

Poverty, Biology, and Health: Will the Circle Be Unbroken?


January 22, 2015, 3:30 p.m.


Craig Ramey, PhD, and Sharon Ramey, PhD

Distinguished Research Scholars, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute; Research Professors of Psychology, Virginia Tech; Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Pediatrics, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, Virginia


Fralin Life Science Institute, Fralin Hall Auditorium
360 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

View the Presentation Slides of Poverty, Biology, and Health: Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Drs. Sharon and Craig Ramey will present recent findings from their research on the intergenerational and lifelong effects of impoverished environments, and the extent to which systematic, theory-driven interventions (tested through randomized controlled trials and multisite observational studies) can improve health outcomes. The Rameys will also discuss the search for biological and behavioral mechanisms responsible for perpetuating, as well as altering, the negative effects of poverty.

This seminar is part of the Fourth Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week Seminars and the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Seminar Series.

About the Speaker:

How early should early education start? Dr. Craig Ramey first posed that question 40 years ago, and the research he pioneered then is still yielding critical answers.

In 1972, Dr. Ramey launched the Abecedarian Project to understand the long-term effects of early education on the cognitive and social development of children.

The first Abecedarian Project study, launched with 112 children from families living well below the poverty line, overwhelmingly showed that children who received early education—coupled with a high-quality nutrition plan, pediatric care, and social work services—were more likely to score within a normal IQ range. Abecedarian program graduates also have had better math and reading skills, have been more likely to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from a four-year college, and are more likely to be employed full time. They are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, to smoke or use drugs, or to report depression.

Before joining the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute as a professor and a distinguished research scholar in 2011, Dr. Ramey was the Georgetown University Distinguished Professor of Health Studies and Psychiatry. He trained at the University of West Virginia and the University of California at Berkeley before serving as a faculty member and director of research at the Frank Porter Graham Child Developmental Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Sharon Ramey, also a professor and a distinguished research scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, was previously the founding director of the Science of Effective Early Childhood Education Program at Georgetown University, where she was also the Susan H. Mayer Professor of Child and Family Studies. She earned her doctorate and undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington.

Dr. Ramey’s research addresses three major areas of human development: the contribution of early experience, starting even prior to conception and extending through the prenatal and early postnatal periods, to later health, social-emotional, and intellectual development; the development and testing of highly promising treatments for children with disabilities and at-risk conditions; and methods for improving the provision of health, education, and social services and strengthening natural community supports to benefit children and families.

Along with Dr. Stephanie DeLuca, also at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Dr. Ramey pioneered the use of a therapeutic intervention for children with cerebral palsy that was first developed for adult stroke patients. The therapy results in a dramatic functional recovery of the impaired side of the brain and a persistent recovery—for many months and even years after the therapy—of control of the impaired side of the body.

Drs. DeLuca and Ramey now conduct their work at the VTCRI Neuromotor Research Clinic, where they—along with collaborators from the University of Virginia and Ohio State University—have launched a multisite randomized controlled clinical research trial to evaluate the most effective parameters for increasing brain function in children with cerebral palsy. The therapies they seek to perfect not only significantly reduce costs to society, but also enable the children to realize their full potential in life.

Additional Details

This is a free event. The host is Department of BIological Sciences, College of Science, Virginia Tech.

Event Type