Exploring healthy infant brain development

The Howell Lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke, VA is dedicated to improving mother-infant health outcomes for our community by exploring the factors that influence healthy infant brain and behavioral development. We help families in our community through scientific research and provide a welcoming environment for our research participants.

What kind of tests do we do?

We perform a variety of assessments, while focusing on provide a welcoming, safe environment for all of our research participants. All of our research methods are non-invasive, and help our researchers understand and define characteristics that influence healthy infant brain development. Known factors that are important to healthy neurodevelopment include feeding and sleep habits, nutrition, stress levels, and social interactions.

Participant visits may include:

  • Brain scanning

  • Fun and games (behavioral testing)

  • Surveys for mom

  • Collection of stool samples

  • Collection of breast milk samples

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Our Team

Brittany HowellBrittany Howell

Dr. Brittany Howell

Dr. Howell was born and raised in southern New Hampshire, but has spent most of her adult life in the southern US. First in New Orleans, LA while earning her BS in Neuroscience and Cell and Molecular Biology at Tulane University (2006), and then again in Atlanta, GA while earning her PhD in Neuroscience from Emory University (2013). She then moved to Minnesota where she was a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Jed Elison at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (2014). She joined the faculty at the Fralin Biomedical Research Center at VTC in August of 2019. Her research is focused on understanding how moms impact brain development in their infants, with the ultimate goal being to use this understanding to better support families through developing best practices and policies. She enjoys travel, food, and spending time with her two little girls Nellie and Eliza, her husband Daniel, two dogs Olive and Dinah, and cats, Gozer and Gumbo. Dr. Howell is grateful and excited to be a part of the thriving community that is the Roanoke Valley.


Collin Gregg

Born in Upstate New York, Collin Gregg grew up in Roanoke. Collin graduated high school from William Byrd, and completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology from James Madison University in 2019. He joined Dr. Howell’s lab to pursue his passion for scientific research and the microbiome. Aside from his career interests, Collin enjoys the Fall season, reading, playing basketball, and playing with his dog Oliver.


Jamie Holt

Originally from northern Alabama, Jamie Holt graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2009. She then moved to Burlington, Vermont where she lived for nine years, briefly working in the Environmental Testing industry and starting a family. In the summer of 2019, she, along with her husband Adam, her two young sons Silas and Graham, and a menagerie of pets, relocated to Roanoke, Virginia to be closer to family. Jamie is delighted to be back in an area with shorter winters, southern cooking, and many new mountains to explore.

Dawn Wright

After spending most of her life in the southeastern region of Virginia, Dawn moved to Blacksburg in 2014 to attend college at Virginia Tech and received a B.S. Clinical Neuroscience and a B.S. in Biological Sciences. Following graduation in 2018, she relocated to Roanoke and became a “double Hokie.” She is currently a student in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Class of 2022. Dawn is proud to contribute to her family’s record of military service and is currently serving as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army as recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship Program and will be a physician for the Army following her medical school graduation. She joined Dr. Howell’s lab because she wants to participate in research that strengthens relations with the community. Dawn enjoys spending time with her adorable cat, Boots, drinking lots of coffee, and attempting to cook.


Dr. Howell’s research has been published in more than 20 academic journals.

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Want to participate in a study?

The Howell Lab is now recruiting mothers with healthy infants between ages 3 – 6 months in the Roanoke, VA area to participate in paid research studies. If you’re interested, please fill out the volunteer or contact forms below!

Submit Volunteer Participant Form
Contact Us