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Psychology professor studying dance’s effect on the brain


GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College Assistant Professor of Psychology Shannon Deets, Ph.D., is researching the effect dance that incorporates authentic movement has on the brain. The research is part of the first set of projects taking place this summer through the new Greenville Neuromodulation Center (GNC) Faculty/Student Research Institute.

Thiel College students Kourtney Polvinale, of Brownsville, Pa., and Kelsey Meyer, of Cambridge Springs, Pa., are the apprentice researchers for the project.

Deets’ research “Altered Consciousness Induced through Authentic Movement” is looking at the electrical changes that take place in the cerebral cortex as well as the physical, psychological and spiritual experience of individuals who alter their consciousness while dancing. Deets is especially interested in dance that utilizes authentic movement. Authentic movement is an expressive improvisational activity that is similar to dancing but is spurred by internal stimuli. Findings from this study will be applied toward future research aimed at creating integrative therapeutic treatments for a variety of mental health and physical ailments, specifically autism, trauma and Parkinson’s disease.

“The GNC Summer Research Institute is an exciting new opportunity that allows faculty to build mentoring relationships with students and foster their growth as young scholars,” said Professor of Psychology and Associate Academic Dean Jennifer Griffin, Ph.D. “The College is grateful to the Haer family and to GNC for their continuing commitment to developing excellence in scholarship.”

Deets has Bachelor of Science from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. with a major in biology. She completed her master’s in community counseling and her doctorate in counseling psychology at Gannon University in Erie, Pa. She is a licensed professional counselor and has completed additional training in psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy and a variety of types of play therapy.

Thiel College alumni Fred Haer ’65 and his wife, Jill (Shackett) Haer ’66, have pledged more than $400,000 to fund the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute for the next three years. The institute is concentrated on connecting science and liberal arts at Thiel College.

Assistant Professor of Biology Delbert Abi Abdallah, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of English Jared Johnson, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Pete Rydberg, Ph.D.; and Associate Professor of Chemistry Chris Stanisky, Ph.D., have also had their research projects selected to be included in the inaugural class. Student apprentice researchers will partner with faculty principal investigators on most projects.

About Thiel College

Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 24 varsity sports, and an 11:1 student-faculty ratio. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016 and remains committed to combining tradition with innovation.

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