Brock awarded more than $700,000 from CFI to support aging, human health and materials science research

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Brock awarded more than $700,000 from CFI to support aging, human health and materials science research

Published on December 22 2009


The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced this week that it has awarded $727,012 to Brock University in support of five projects led by several Brock researchers. The projects focus on aging, human health and materials science, and will involve collaborative partnerships and benefits for the Niagara region and beyond.

The CFI supports research through infrastructure that helps stimulate various sectors of the economy associated with such capital projects. It is estimated that every dollar invested directly in research yields more than $7 in economic benefits, including spin-off jobs.

“Brock continues to strengthen its reputation as a centre of vital research,” said St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra. “I am very pleased to see the CFI support the efforts of our world-class researchers in these vitally important areas such as aging and human health.”

“The cutting-edge infrastructure acquired by these researchers will further our relationship in various areas that are highly relevant for the Niagara region,” said Liette Vasseur, vice-president Research at Brock. “The project for materials science also shows Brock’s increasing strength in this field and opens up collaboration possibilities with regional companies in this area.” She added, “Such investment in research has the high potential for long-term benefits in our region and beyond.”

“The investments at Brock will further enhance our country’s reputation as a destination of choice for outstanding researchers,” said Dr. Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the CFI. “They will make our universities even more competitive when it comes to attracting the best and brightest researchers from around the world.”

The Brock researchers and their awards include:

  • Catherine Mondloch, professor, Psychology, $170,790 for “The Development of Face Perception”
  • Fereidoon Razavi, professor, Physics, $245,850 for “The Physical Property Management System (PPMS) for Research on Electronic and Magnetic Properties of Materials and Thin Films of Compounds”
  • Sidney Segalowitz, professor, Psychology, $35,965 for “Neurovisceral Models of Mental Health and Personality”
  • Ayda Tekok-Kilic, assistant professor, Child and Youth Studies, $125,617 for “An Electrophysiological Approach to the Developmental Trajectories of Working Memory Functions”
  • Craig Tokuno, assistant professor, Physical Education and Kinesiology, $148,790 for “Establishment of the Balance and Gait Laboratory to Investigate the Neural Strategies Used for Postural and Locomotor Control”

The CFI announced a total of nearly $60 million in new funds to support 262 projects at 40 institutions across Canada. The investment was approved by the CFI’s board of directors last month, following a rigorous merit-review process. A total of $45,688,386 was awarded under the Leaders Opportunity Fund, which provides infrastructure support to Canadian institutions so they can attract and retain the very best of today and tomorrow’s leading researchers at a time of intense international competition for knowledge workers. The remaining $13,706,516 was awarded under the Infrastructure Operating Fund, a complementary program that assists research institutions with the incremental operating and maintenance costs associated with new infrastructure projects.

For a complete list of projects awarded, visit www.innovation.ca

For more information contact:

• Carolyn Mullin, Research Communications Manager, 905-688-5550, x5789, cmullin2@brocku.ca

• Yves Melanson, Co-ordinator, Media Relations, Canada Foundation for Innovation, 613-996-3160 or 613-447-1723 (cell)

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ABOUT THE CFI

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure. The CFI’s mandate is to strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and non-profit research institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development that benefits Canadians. Since its creation in 1997, the CFI has committed almost $5.2 billion in support of more than 6,300 projects at 130 institutions in 65 municipalities across Canada.

ABOUT THE RESEARCHERS and their PROJECTS

Catherine Mondloch, Psychology: Mondloch will use the funding to purchase equipment to aid the research on the development of expert face perception during childhood and to investigate limitations in adults’ expertise. The equipment, eye trackers, a behavioural recording system, and cameras capable of presenting 3D and motion, enhances the type of face stimuli she can present as subjects make judgments on attractiveness, identity, or trait characteristics such as aggressiveness. Mondloch’s research on the development of face recognition and sensitivity to emotional expressions will help us understand the nature of children’s social interactions, limitations in their ability to serve as eyewitnesses, and the roots of individual differences (e.g., the relationship between shyness and face processing). Understanding limitations in adults’ expertise (e.g., their more accurate recognition of own-race faces than other-race faces) is critical in our multi-ethnic society.

Fereidoon Razavi, Physics: the funding will enhance the material research laboratories at Brock University with the purchase of a Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS), which will replace several “home-built” facilities in use in Razavi’s lab for more than 20 years. Material research investigation involves the preparation of material, structural characterization and study of electronic and magnetic properties at ambient and high pressures. While Brock is well-equipped to conduct materials investigation, having facilities such as ovens, pulse laser deposition, a sputtering system, x-ray facilities and chemical labs, the funding will help modernize the study of the characteristics of the electronic and magnetic properties of materials.

Sidney Segalowitz, Psychology: the funding will enhance the measurement of electrocortical (brainwave) signals measured from the scalp to examine brain processes critical for cognitive function and mental health. These processes involve “self-regulation,” which is considered central to maintaining healthy reactions to the normal social and cognitive challenges encountered in everyday life. Self-regulation is critical for healthy child and adolescent growth and is at risk in the aging nervous system. It depends on links between frontal cortical regions associated with top-down control processes and emotional control centres. These centres respond to rewarding and aversive situations and are central to understanding addiction, aggressiveness, hostility, depression, and anxiety. These frontal cortical regions also modulate autonomic visceral functions through the vagus nerve affecting heart function. An understanding of cognitive and social self-regulation depends not only on neural responses as measured in EEG, but also responses of the autonomic nervous system to emotionally charged or attention-demanding situations. Such autonomic responses are measured through sympathetic and parasympathetic influences on the heart. The CFI-funded infrastructure equipment will allow the team to measure heart rate and blood pressure continuously throughout testing, to monitor beat-to-beat changes in blood pressure as the task challenges change. With this integration, the team will be able to study sympathetic and parasympathetic influences on both intellectual and emotional control, factors critical in understanding mental health throughout the lifespan.

Ayda Tekok-Kilic, Child and Youth Studies: is a clinical/cognitive neuropsychologist who works with children, youth and adults while studying the brain organization of Working Memory, and the potential reasons for deviances from normal developmental progression. Her current and long-term research program is related to the investigation of the development of neural pathways supporting Working Memory (WM) functions in typically developing and exceptional children and adolescents using event related potential (ERP) methodology. Event related potentials are the brain’s real-time electrical responses to an ongoing sensory stimulation. These responses are recorded over the scalp. The technique is non-intrusive, relatively inexpensive (compared to other neuroimaging techniques) and frequently used with very young children. Working memory is a critical subroutine underlying higher cognitive functions such as learning and language. Functionally the WM neural networks continue to mature from infancy to adolescence. Although developmental neuroscience has advanced in the application of various neuroimaging techniques, we are not yet clear about the processes leading to the maturity of these networks. Children and adolescents diagnosed with various neurodevelopmental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and learning disorders show significant difficulties in tasks that require working memory. It is important to understand normal brain maturation related to cognitive development in order to identify the problems underlying neurodevelopmental disorders. The CFI grant will be used to establish an EEG lab-Developmental Neuroscience Lab – which is essential for this research program. Tekok-Kilic will also be able to study infants’ visual working memory development using a cutting-edge technology that integrates eye-movement information with the brain’s electrical responses.

Craig Tokuno, Physical Education and Kinesiology: Tokuno’s research focuses on human movement by determining how the central nervous system contributes to the control of human posture and locomotion, and whether these neuromechanical mechanisms are affected by age or neuromuscular deficits (e.g. stroke). The CFI grant will assist in the purchase of new research equipment for the Balance and Gait Laboratory, including a transcranial magnetic stimulator (to stimulate neurons within the brain), an electroencephalography system (to record the electrical activity of the brain), a dual rail positioning stage (to experimentally disturb a participant’s balance), an electromyography system (to record the electrical activity of skeletal muscles) and a motion capture system (to measure the three-dimensional movements of the body). Research from the Balance and Gait Laboratory at Brock University investigates the neural and biomechanical strategies underlying the control of human posture and locomotion. By examining how these control processes become altered in older adults and individuals with a neurological deficit (e.g., stroke, Parkinson’s disease), this knowledge will lead to a better understanding of the causes of falls and methods to reduce fall risk and fall-related injuries in individuals with balance deficits. This equipment will enable researchers to administer accurate and consistent mechanical or neural disturbances to participants and to determine how information from the brain and spinal cord are integrated in order to maintain a standing or walking posture.
 

 

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