Indiana State University Newsroom

Dean to discuss early brain development during Darwin address on March 24

March 9, 2015

The human brain's early development will be the topic of Tri-Beta Darwin Keynote speaker Jack Turman 4 p.m. March 24 at Indiana State University.

Turman, who is dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services at Indiana State, has made a career of working to give youngsters the best possible start. He founded and directed the Center for Premature Infant Health and Development at the University of Southern California and developed and implemented a community partnership at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to improve birth outcomes among African Americans.

During his talk, Turman will answer the question "Why are we so concerned about early periods of brain development?"

"There is much focus on fetal and infant brain development and how the environmental influences early brain development," Turman said. "There is also much interest in understanding the changes that occur during adolescence. Overall, we know that brain development is a long process that extends from conception through adolescence."

The brain is quite malleable during development and therefore highly influenced by environmental conditions, relationships, stress and nutrition, he said.

"Developmental neuroscientists, like myself, believe that we need to optimize biological, social and environmental conditions for all pregnant women and infants so that a healthy condition is created for brain and behavior development," Turman said.

Parents need to be equipped with the skills to optimize their child's development, and daycare and early education experiences need to be grounded in evidence-based practices to support a child's brain and behavior development, he said.

Turman said he hopes attendees to the Darwin event learn "the complexity of early brain development and how vulnerable it is to biological, social and environmental conditions that surround it, the importance of healthy relationships in influencing fetal and infant brain development (and) to validate the importance of early education experiences for all children."

A native of Bakersfield, Calif., Turman began his career in the area of pediatric physical therapy. He earned a master's degree and doctorate in kinesiology from the University of California-Los Angeles and a bachelor's degree in physical therapy from Washington University in St. Louis.

Turman has served as a research consultant for the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri and as a community engagement consultant with the Black Infant Health Alliance at Florida A&M University.

The event, to be held in room 12 of the science building, is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served at 3:30 p.m.

Beta Beta Beta is the national biological honor society and is dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study through scientific research. The centers for Community Engagement and Genomic Advocacy are also sponsors.


Photo: -- Jack Turman Jr., dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University

Contact: Jack Turman, dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-3683 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or