Dr. Stephen Sammut

Professor of Psychology

[email protected]
(740) 283-6963

Download CV


  • Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Malta (Msida, Malta)
  • B.Pharm, Pharmacy College, Monash University (Parkville, VIC, Australia)

Professional Memberships

  • Society for Neuroscience (SFN)
  • Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
  • Society of Catholic Social Scientists
  • American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG)
  • World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education (WECARE)


  • Post Doctoral Research Associate & Lab Manager, Department of Neuroscience (Lab PI: Dr. AR. West), Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (North Chicago, IL 60064)


  • Voltammetry/Amperometry
  • Electrophysiology
  • Behavioral Experiments
  • Behavioral Models
  • Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy


Animal models of disease remain crucial as a tool in science, helping us understand the mechanisms behind various human diseases by attempting to imitate to the best of our ability the pathologies of interest. In psychology (and related sciences), such models of disease are utilized to investigate the physiological mechanisms involved in psychiatric disorders. It is our goal to utilize such behavioral modeling of psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and drug abuse to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to dysfunctional behavior.

Abortion Study

Investigating pregnancy termination in an animal model

Background: Approximately 20% of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. The health implications of abortion on women continues to be a source of heated debate. Various health concerns have been reported, short- and long-term. These include both physiological (e.g. increased risk of cancer) and psychological effects (e.g. increased risk of mood disorders (including depression), anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide) on women who have undergone an abortion.

Given the seriousness of the potential mental health and physical consequences, and the difficulty of treating them if they occur, it is necessary to appropriately investigate these potential links to the abortion procedure. Unlike many other situations in medicine, there has not been any objective pre-clinical investigation of the potential serious physiological consequences of the termination of a viable pregnancy. Given the complex changes in the body associated with pregnancy, it is impossible to expect that terminating a viable pregnancy is without its consequences.

Goal of our project: While there are clear differences between animals and humans, there are many similarities in the physiology, neurology, neurophysiology and the resulting behaviors (e.g. in stress). Animal models provide the scientist with a comparative approach to address various questions (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, etc.), at various levels (e.g. behavioral, neurophysiological, molecular, etc.), in a significantly more controlled environment, independently of potential social, moral and other influences. Thus, the goal of this project is to investigate drug-induced abortion from various angles in an animal model (a laboratory rat).

This project involves multiple steps. The first part of the work has been published (Part I below). The second part (Part 2) is currently in progress:


1.   Development of an Animal Model of Drug-Induced Pregnancy Termination

Goal of this study: The goal of this study was to develop a pre-clinical model of the potential biological, physiological and behavioral consequences of drug-induced abortion in an animal model (a laboratory rat).

Our model utilizes established scientific parameters considered to be indicators of the physiological and behavioral changes associated with depression- and anxiety-like behavior and stress, including rat body weight, food intake, vaginal impedance, sucrose consumption/preference, locomotor activity, home-cage activity, forced swim test, and oxidative balance measures.

Given the role of animal models in assisting in our understanding of the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying human brain function and behavior, the established animal model described in our study provides insight into the potential consequences of abortion in humans and a foundation for further pre-clinical research on the topic of abortion.

This aspect of the research (the establishment of the model) has now been published: Biological, Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of Drug-Induced Pregnancy Termination at First-Trimester Human Equivalent in an Animal Model (


2.   Abortion-Pill Reversal

Background: Our previous work (Camilleri et al., 2019) reported negative behavioral (anxiety- and depression-like) consequences, as well as long-term physiological changes associated with drug-induced pregnancy termination at first-trimester human equivalent in a rat model.

Goal of this study: Having established the behavioral model for chemically-induced abortion and given:

  • the nature (duress) under which many induced abortions take place,
  • the clinical reports (Delgado and Davenport, 2012Delgado et al., 2018) confirming the possibility of utilizing progesterone to reverse an abortion following the administration of mifepristone, and
  • the potential for improving the current reversal methodology…

…this research seeks to build on the previously established model of drug-induced abortion to create a model of progesterone-mediated reversal of mifepristone-induced abortion (abortion-pill reversal) that will provide a pre-clinical model allowing for the investigation of various aspects associated with the procedure.

Ectopic Pregnancy Study

Goal of the study:

Ectopic pregnancy (the implantation of the embryo outside of the uterus) affects approximately 1 in 40 pregnancies. Unfortunately, there are currently no treatments that can be utilized to save the life of the baby, meaning that such cases of ectopic pregnancy end with the termination of the baby’s life.

The goal of our study is to investigate the potential for developing a surgical technique that could be used to transfer an embryo/fetus in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. As it is not ethical to conduct this experimentation in humans, the goal of our work is to develop this technique in an animal (the laboratory rat) in the hope that the information can benefit humans.

While the reproductive anatomy of the rat is different from that of the human, its design gives us an opportunity to investigate a scenario that would allow us to understand the potential factors that would be involved in such a transfer.
In summary, it is our hope that the findings from our study will provide the medical community with a foundation for the further investigation of such a surgical procedure in the human, preserving both the life of the mother and the baby.

The proposal discussed above has been reviewed scientifically and an initial start-up grant of $50,000 was awarded by the Watson Bowes Research Institute. These funds have been utilized to purchase some of the necessary equipment, as well as to pay a part-time salary for a research assistant who works full-time, volunteering for the other half of the time.

franciscan seal colored
Select Publications

More Publications

Book Chapters

Faculty Achievements

New Study Reveals Potential Harmful Effects of Drug-Induced Abortion

New Study Reveals Potential Harmful Effects of Drug-Induced AbortionUsing animal models, Franciscan University researchers propose potential basis for link between medical abortion and depression and anxiety behaviors.June 14, 2019 STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—After more than three years of research, a team of behavioral neuroscientists at Franciscan University of Steubenville has released the findings of a study that…

Department Faculty