Michael Burman featured on the Maine Science Podcast

Michael Burman
Michael Burman, associate professor of psychology

Michael Burman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, was recently featured on the Maine Science Podcast, a production of the Maine Science Festival, the first and only science festival in Maine.

The podcast focused on a conversation between Burman and host Kate Dickerson that ranged from Burman’s background, to teaching UNE and the University’s neuroscience program, to his current research.

“I have always been impressed with Mike’s passion for communicating science to the public,” commented Dickerson. “His reason for doing the work he does is the desire to make the world a better place.”

Burman has studied learning, memory, and emotion using behavioral neuroscience techniques. He has recently become interested in how the brain’s memory systems and emotional regulation systems come to function and cooperate over the course of development.

“I knew as I finished my undergraduate education that I loved the science of learning,” he told Dickerson. “I was really fascinated by learning and memory, and how they shaped our experiences and our personalities.”

Burman is currently investigating the long-term consequences of neonatal pain and stress on subsequent fear, anxiety, and pain.

“Anxiety really emerges early in life,” Burman explained. “What I set out to do is to understand the developments of anxiety and fear.”

Burman has been studying infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“We know that kids who spend time in the NICU are much more likely to suffer from things like anxiety, fear, addiction, and chronic pain later in life,” he said. “NICUs save lives. Kids survive now because of the medical interventions we can do. You can't speak highly enough of that. But, NICUs are also an incredibly stressful place. They are loud, bright, noisy, painful, and disruptive.”

Burman believes his research is making an impact.

“We have been testing hypotheses that nobody else has had,” he stated. “I think we have developed our own niche in the field where we have been studying and identifying changes in the brain. Hopefully, we can eventually create interventions and treatments.”

Burman and post-doctoral fellow Seth Davis, Ph.D., have published a recent study that sheds more light into how early life trauma can negatively impact health later in life. The publication in Stress, an international journal on the biology of stress, “Maternal separation with neonatal pain influences later-life fear conditioning and somatosenation in male and female rats”, expands on research the Burman Collaborative has been conducting into how pain experienced in early life can increase the likelihood of developing anxiety disorders later in adolescences.