Communications, Media Relations and Public Affairs https://brocku.ca/media-room/media-releases/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 20:52:05 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 Brock researchers find no evidence social media use predicts future depression https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/14/brock-researchers-find-no-evidence-social-media-use-predicts-future-depression/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 20:52:05 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1316 MEDIA RELEASE: 14 February 2019 – R00025

Worries that teens and adolescents who use social media are at a greater risk of developing symptoms of depression later in life may be unfounded.

New research out of Brock University’s Department of Psychology and the Centre for Lifespan Development Research finds no evidence that social media use is a predictor of depressive symptoms over time.

“By using data from two large longitudinal studies, we were able to empirically test the assumption that social media use is leading to greater depressive symptoms,” says Psychology PhD candidate Taylor Heffer, lead author of the paper published in Clinical Psychological Science.

While some research has found an association between the average time spent using social media and average well-being scores, those studies tend to look at a single point in time.

To understand the long-term relationship between social media use and depression, longitudinal studies are essential, says Heffer. In other words, researchers need to “investigate the same people over time.”

The paper contends that association does not mean social media use leads to future depression in either males or females.

Heffer and her team were surprised to discover that among adolescent girls, the relationship was actually the other way around: symptoms of depression predicted greater social media use over time.

“This finding contrasts with the idea that people who use a lot of social media become more depressed over time,” says Heffer. “Instead, adolescent girls who are feeling down may turn to social media to try and make themselves feel better.”

According to Heffer, this finding “highlights the importance of testing multiple explanations” for why the link between social media use and depression exists, rather than assuming social media use predicts later depressive symptoms.

Results of this research suggest future avenues for exploration that can look at how different groups of people use social media, says Heffer.

“It would be interesting to look at how the quality of social media use — for example, using social media for social comparisons, active versus passive engagement and types of social media use — might be associated with well-being over time,” she says.

The samples used in this research came from two large longitudinal studies out of Brock. One, currently underway through the Centre for Lifespan Development Research, is following around 1,500 adolescents, ranging from Grades 3 to 8, and is investigating potential interactions of health-risk behaviours across multiple factors. The other study surveyed more than 1,100 first-year Brock University students annually for seven years. All participants responded to self-report measures of well-being and reported average time spent engaged in social media, along with numerous other measures.

In addition to Heffer, co-authors of the research include Brock PhD candidate Elliott MacDonnell, master’s student Owen Daly, Brock Psychology Professor Teena Willoughby and Brock alumna Marie Good (PhD ’11), Assistant Professor of Psychology at Redeemer University College.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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King Ubu coming to Marilyn I. Walker Theatre https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/13/king-ubu-coming-to-marilyn-i-walker-theatre/ Wed, 13 Feb 2019 20:52:55 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1314 MEDIA RELEASE: 13 February 2019 – R00024

Alfred Jarry’s controversial classic King Ubu will bring audiences face-to-face with the absurdity of modern life when the production comes to Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker Theatre starting Friday, March 1.

Presented by Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART), the show is an avant-garde and hilarious commentary on human folly and the dangers of unchecked political ambition.

Director and Associate Professor David Fancy said Ubu’s references to populism and the blurred lines between celebrity culture and politics are fitting themes for our current climate. Although first performed in 19th century France, King Ubu, he added, offers “an invitation to look critically at, but not disengage with, the current moment in time.”

The play centres on Ma and Pa Ubu’s bloodthirsty quest to become the new king and queen of a fictionalized version of Poland.

Between their continuous bickering, Pa, an egotistical and inept tyrant who wields an enormous toilet brush while speaking nonsense, and Ma, his enabling and devious wife, scheme to take over the world through a series of antics that play out like a reality show gone wrong.

To emphasize the theatrical nature of Ma and Pa Ubu’s political exploits, the show features puppets, karaoke numbers and a giant puppet head that eats half the cast.

Although the production stays true to the absurdist spirit of Jarry’s original work, Fancy said there is also a layer of introspection that exists beneath all the silliness.

“On one side we’re being playful, irreverent and sarcastic like Jarry, but on the other side there are also lots of heartfelt moments,” he said. “We can use laughter on some level to celebrate, criticize and escape, but we will also be forced to confront the fact that these are real people having difficult experiences. We question what caused them to become such trainwrecks — and whether we need to have compassion for these people who are perhaps not so different from us.”

The show’s gender-bending lead role selection also provides a unique twist.

Ubu admonishes supremacy logic in all of its forms and casting a woman as Ubu helps heighten the critique of patriarchy. At the same time, this casting points out that anyone, given the right context, can engage in human folly,” Fancy said of the distribution of roles across genders. “Everybody can behave like a dangerous fool.”

King Ubu is translated by David Edney and directed by David Fancy, with costume design by Jo Pacinda and scenography and sound design by James McCoy. The production showcases the talents of students in the DART undergraduate program while students, staff and faculty members are also part of the creative and production team.

King Ubu runs from Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 9 at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines. Showtimes are March 1, 2 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., March 3 at 2 p.m. and March 8 at 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the show are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. A group rate is also available. Tickets are available through the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office at 905-688-0722 or on the PAC website.

NOTE: Media are invited to attend a media preview on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. Please contact Communications Officer Sarah Ackles at smoore10@brocku.ca to confirm attendance.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Brock labour expert researching working conditions in gym and fitness industry https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/13/brock-labour-expert-researching-working-conditions-in-gym-and-fitness-industry/ Wed, 13 Feb 2019 18:55:57 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1312 MEDIA RELEASE: 13 February 2019 – R00023

When most people go to a gym or fitness club, the only work that’s on their minds is the lifting, squatting, jogging or other workouts they need to do to get into shape.

But there’s another layer of work happening at these exercise centres, performed by a range of employees whose on-the-job conditions have only recently come under scrutiny.

A 2016 Ministry of Labour inspection blitz found that more than 20 gyms had violations including unpaid wages and failing to pay overtime and minimum wage. Since then, unionization drives and class action lawsuits have kept the industry in the spotlight.

Brock University Professor of Labour Studies Larry Savage has put together a survey he’s asking gym and fitness club employees to fill out to shed more light on their working conditions.

“I’m interested to learn more about the people working in gyms, what concerns them about their jobs and how they perceive their relationships with supervisors, coworkers and clients,” says Savage, who was a co-recipient of the Faculty of Social Science’s Distinguished Researcher award in 2018.

“I’m also interested in learning about their experiences with workplace injury, unpaid labour and, in general, their level of job satisfaction,” he says.

The Ontario-wide, anonymous survey is aimed at anyone 16 years and older employed by a gym or fitness club. Positions can include group fitness instructors, personal trainers, people who clean and maintain the gym and its equipment, front desk staff, supervisors and others.

The Survey on Gym and Fitness Club Work, which can be found online, closes on Sunday, March 17.

Savage says he doesn’t know of any academic studies that specifically focus on gyms and fitness centres as workplaces.

“Once I get a better picture of the landscape of this type of work in Ontario, my goal is to determine if there’s room for improvement or public policy changes that could benefit the industry and those who work in it,” he says.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Cuvée 2019 to celebrate the best in Ontario VQA wine and food https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/11/cuvee-2019-to-celebrate-the-best-in-ontario-vqa-wine-and-food/ Mon, 11 Feb 2019 20:22:14 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1310 MEDIA RELEASE: 11 February 2019 – R00022

Cuvée weekend is fast approaching and guests this year will have the opportunity to sample the best VQA wine and food Ontario has to offer in a whole new way.

Hosted by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the Cuvée Grand Tasting is the largest celebration of Ontario VQA wine and food of its kind. This year’s event takes place Saturday, March 23 at Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, with the Cuvée en Route passport program once again extending the wine celebration all weekend long at participating wineries.

Nearly 900 people attended last year’s Cuvée Grand Tasting, with proceeds supporting scholarships for Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture students, as well as grape and wine industry-driven research initiatives at CCOVI.

New this year, guests can experience Cuvée using augmented reality. CCOVI has teamed up with HoloEducate, an augmented reality company founded by students from Brock. The mobile application LifeAR will allow guests at the Grand Tasting to view wine selections and even purchase wine online.

Guests can download the free app before and during the Grand Tasting and then use their phones to scan the large wine bottles found in the middle of each wine station. They’ll be able to see a list of the wineries, which wines they’re pouring and even purchase those wines immediately online.

“It will be a unique and fun experience for our guests at this year’s event, allowing them to experience Cuvée like never before,” said Barb Tatarnic, Cuvée manager.

The LifeAR app can also be used before the event to scan the Cuvée logo to view a video of last year’s celebration.

At the Grand Tasting, guests will enjoy culinary delights from celebrated local chefs at live cooking stations and wines from 48 of Ontario’s top winemakers, who will present two of their favourite wines.

The Grand Tasting is followed by the Après Cuvée after party, which features live music from the Associates, Icewine, sparkling wine, cider and local craft beer.

The 2019 lineup of Niagara’s best chefs at Cuvée will include:

  • Backhouse Restaurant
  • Bolete Restaurant
  • Brushfire Smoke BBQ
  • Canadian Food and Wine Institute — Benchmark Restaurant
  • Chili Jiao Authentic Chinese Restaurant
  • Ravine Vineyard Restaurant
  • Righteous Monger
  • Scotiabank Convention Centre
  • The Restaurant at Redstone Winery
  • Tide & Vine Oyster House
  • Criveller Cakes
  • Italian Ice Cream

A complete list of participating wineries can be found at cuvee.ca

Tickets that include both the Saturday night Grand Tasting and the weekend-long en Route passport are available online at cuvee.ca/tickets for $200 per person. Tickets for the en Route passport only can be purchased for $30.

 

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Britt Dixon, Communications Officer, Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University bdixon@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x4471

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Local MPs to celebrate social science and humanities funding recipients at Brock https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/08/local-mps-to-celebrate-social-science-and-humanities-funding-recipients-at-brock/ Fri, 08 Feb 2019 18:28:40 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1308 MEDIA RELEASE: 8 February 2019 – R00021

Understanding teens who are struggling with pressures to be perfect. Uncovering a buried shipyard from a chapter in St. Catharines’ maritime past. Documenting how children with reading disabilities deal with their challenges in creative ways.

These are some of the innovative research projects Brock University faculty and student researchers are pursuing thanks to funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

To celebrate the recipients of this SSHRC federal government funding, Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey and St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle will visit Brock University on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

They will meet with recipients to learn more about their research and scholarship and tour two labs, one conducting the St. Catharines Shickluna shipyard research and another lab studying perfectionism in adolescence.

SSHRC is a Canadian federal research-funding agency that promotes and supports post-secondary research and training in the humanities and social sciences.

What: Visit to Brock University by Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey and St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle

When: Tuesday, Feb. 12, 1 to 3 p.m.

Where: Scotiabank Atrium, Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, Brock University

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Brock research encourages Niagara to explore becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/07/brock-research-encourages-niagara-to-explore-becoming-a-unesco-global-geopark/ Thu, 07 Feb 2019 20:17:17 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1306 MEDIA RELEASE: 7 February 2019 – R00020

With the mighty cataracts, vineyards producing critically acclaimed wines and vast networks of bicycle paths, tourists coming to Niagara have many options of what to see and experience. There’s also a world of rocks, canyons, waterfalls and other land features that even many locals don’t know about.

Niagara’s unique, rich geology — and the economic and cultural activities connected to these features — might be better known if the region was to become a UNESCO Global Geopark, says new research from Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO).

“Being designated a UNESCO Global Geopark allows Niagara to brand itself internationally as a destination for geotourism,” says Carol Phillips, author of the NCO policy brief Ohnia:kara: An Aspiring Global Geopark.

“Niagara has a fascinating Earth history that has created so many beautiful sites, culminating in Niagara Falls,” says Phillips. “And this brand allows us to showcase those sites as well as the history and culture that has developed around them.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) describes a Global Geopark as being a “single, unified geographical area where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.”

Spearheading efforts for Niagara to become a UNESCO Global Geopark is the geographic educational non-profit group called Geospatial Niagara. The NCO policy brief says the group has identified more than 78 geosites in the region that are of geological, environmental or cultural interest.

These include the Welland Canal, the Wainfleet Bog, Beamer Falls, Balls Falls, the Mewinzha Archaeology Gallery in Fort Erie and historical sites from the War of 1812, among others.

The NCO policy brief says, under a geopark system, Niagara Falls would still remain the major draw for visitors to the area. But the tourism industry could be expanded by creating a niche for geotourists interested in seeing Earth history and the historical and cultural sites that have evolved from these unique and significant land features.

The brief notes that the Niagara Escarpment, on which Brock University sits, has been a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 1990. A geopark designation with infrastructure such as visitor centres and plaques with QR codes “can help the Biosphere Reserve tell its story by guiding people to lesser known geosites as the escarpment winds to its greatest asset, Niagara Falls,” says the brief.

Darren Platakis, Executive Director of Geospatial Niagara, says another big advantage of Niagara being designated a UNESCO Global Geopark is that it could provide a strong educational component for Niagara students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

“A Geopark will provide opportunities for students to not only learn and begin to understand our geology and how it is so interdependent with our environment, culture and history, but they can also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the 12,000 years of Indigenous history in Niagara,” says Platakis.

“This Indigenous history is an extremely important element to the overall development of the application and programming for the Geopark,” he says. “Students, local residents and tourists will see Niagara with a new set of eyes.”

Platakis says the designation could also attract researchers and students to the area, with programs and services connecting into a wide range of studies at Brock and Niagara College.

Geospatial Niagara submitted an expression of interest to the Canadian National Committee for Geoparks and is in the process of applying to UNESCO to become a Global Geopark.

The NCO’s policy brief looks at the costs and benefits of geoparks in China, the United Kingdom and France and concludes that a UNESCO Global Geopark designation could benefit all 12 municipalities in Niagara.

“This policy brief encourages all levels of government and sectors of society in Niagara to consider the benefits of a UNESCO Global Geopark and how they may each play a part to make it a reality,” says NCO Director Charles Conteh.

“The vision behind the Global Geopark initiative in Niagara is closely aligned with the sociocultural and economic advancement of the region,” he says. “Leveraging and promoting this initiative should be a fundamentally community-driven effort if it is to be sustainable.”

The NCO brief lays out a number of “next steps” in making the UNESCO Global Geopark a reality in Niagara, emphasizing that it will take a broad community effort across the environment, education and tourism sectors.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Brock expands cider certificate course offerings https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/07/brock-expands-cider-certificate-course-offerings/ Thu, 07 Feb 2019 18:17:18 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1304 MEDIA RELEASE: 7 February 2019 – R00019

Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) continues to lead the way for the booming cider industry with the launch of the Advanced Certificate in Cider and Perry Production.

The advanced-level courses were unveiled Thursday, Feb. 7 by the Cider Institute of North America (CINA) at CiderCon, an annual industry conference being held in Chicago. Brock University joined other CINA program providers, including Cornell and Washington State universities, in making presentations.

The addition of the advanced courses builds on Brock’s offering of CINA’s Foundation Certificate in Cider and Perry Production offered each year by CCOVI.

“Brock University is thrilled to bring the CINA program to the Canadian market and be a key player in driving the industry forward,” said Barb Tatarnic, CCOVI’s Manager of Continuing Education and Outreach. “As a program provider of the Foundation and now the Advanced level of certification, this is a critical step in setting widespread industry standards for the rapidly growing cider and perry industry.”

In addition to being the only Canadian provider of the CINA courses, CCOVI also provides analytical testing services to help cider makers deliver the best product possible.

“Brock played an instrumental role in developing the courses of the Advanced Certificate program, which is the first educational accreditation for cider makers in North America,” said Steven Trussler, the CINA-certified instructor in CCOVI’s cider program. “It builds upon the foundation certificate with a comprehensive program that is intended to take about three years to complete.”

To date, around 100 students have earned the Foundation Certificate in Cider and Perry Production through CCOVI.

“CINA’s curriculum development team represents leaders in the cider industry and partner academic institutions,” said CINA Executive Director Brighid O’Keane. “We’re pleased to announce training opportunities for cider makers to develop their technical skills and gain industry-recognized qualifications in cider and perry production.”

Brock University will offer the following advanced-level courses: Science and Practice of Cider and Perry Production; GMP, Safety and Sanitation of Cider and Perry Production; Essential Sensory Analysis of Cider and Perry; and Essential Laboratory Testing of Cider and Perry.

To find out more about CCOVI and upcoming courses, visit brocku.ca/ccovi

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Britt Dixon, Communications Officer, Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University bdixon@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x4471

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Brock psychopathy and criminal justice experts available to discuss Bruce McArthur case https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/05/brock-psychopathy-and-criminal-justice-experts-available-to-discuss-bruce-mcarthur-case/ Tue, 05 Feb 2019 16:03:53 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1302 MEDIA RELEASE: 5 February 2019 – R00018

Horrific details are emerging in court as Bruce McArthur is being sentenced for his brutal murders of eight men between 2010 and 2017.

The case brings up tough questions about McArthur’s sick, twisted mind and a criminal justice system that many say failed to act quickly enough.

McArthur fits into the broad category of serial killers called “hedonistic,” says Brock University psychopathy and forensics expert Angela Book. Hedonistic killers tend to have violent sexual fantasies that they play out through their grisly murders, reflecting an element of sadism.

These types of crimes are also more likely to be committed by psychopaths, who lack remorse and empathy, and are willing to exploit others for their own needs, says Book, Professor of Psychology.

“Research from our lab suggests that psychopathic individuals share traits with predators in the animal world, including the ability to judge vulnerability in the people around them,” she says. “Psychopathic serial killers see their own fantasies as more important than the lives of their victims.”

She notes that the 67-year-old landscaper is atypical of sexual serial killers, who tend to start their violent crimes in their 20s.

“Interestingly, some are speculating that he may have started in the 1970s when 14 men were brutally murdered in Toronto,” says Book.

Voula Marinos, Brock University’s crime and sentencing expert, says that bias could have played a role in the relatively long time the criminal justice system took to arrest and charge McArthur.

She notes the presence of a “considerable historical tension between the LGBTQ community and the police in Toronto” and that, while McArthur took great pains to hide his crimes, “his activities did not go unnoticed.”

“Calls of bias against gay men resulting from this case will hopefully lead to significant changes in policing and missing persons protocols,” says Marinos, Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies.

Within the court itself, the extensive victim impact statements and use of consecutive sentences are meant to strongly condemn and denounce McArthur’s crimes, she says.

“Consecutive sentences in this case are as much, if not more, for the public’s confidence in the justice system as they are for the offender,” says Marinos. “The public and victims’ families could benefit from the very public nature of the sentencing process and the lengths by which the judge has gone to ensure restorative justice is achieved, to the extent possible, for victims’ families and the LGBTQ community.”

Voula Marinos, Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies, and Psychology Professor Angela Book are available for interviews

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Brock research explores potential new tourism niche in Niagara through UN designation https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/05/brock-research-explores-potential-new-tourism-niche-in-niagara-through-un-designation/ Tue, 05 Feb 2019 14:49:21 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1300 MEDIA RELEASE: 4 February 2019 – R00017

Visitors coming to Niagara have lots to see and do thanks to the region being a top tourism destination.

New research by Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) says there’s potential to enhance Niagara’s vibrant tourism industry if the region were to become a UNESCO Global Geopark.

A Global Geopark is an area containing “sites and landscapes of international geological significance,” according to UNESCO.

“Being designated a UNESCO Global Geopark allows Niagara to brand itself internationally as a destination for geotourism,” says Carol Phillips, author of the NCO’s policy brief Ohnia:kara, An Aspiring Global Geopark.

“Niagara has a fascinating earth history that has created so many beautiful sites, culminating in Niagara Falls,” she says. “This brand allows us to showcase those sites as well as the history and culture that has developed around them.”

The policy brief discusses the concept of a geopark in more detail, describes the efforts of the geographic educational non-profit  Geospatial Niagara to apply to become a geopark, offers case studies from other areas of the world and outlines next steps in the application process.

The NCO will launch the policy brief Ohnia:kara, An Aspiring Global Geopark Thursday, Feb. 7 at Brock University. A panel will discuss the brief and the way forward for Niagara.

What: Launching of NCO policy brief Ohnia:kara, An Aspiring Global Geopark

When: Thursday, Feb. 7 from 9 to 11 a.m.

Where: Room 207, Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, Brock University

Who: Carol Phillips, Research Co-ordinator, Niagara Community Observatory. Panelists: Darren Platakis, Geospatial Niagara, Ohnia:kara Steering Committee; David Fennell, Professor, Geography and Tourism, Brock University, Ohnia:kara Steering Committee; Walter Sendzik, Mayor, St. Catharines; Phil Davis, Indigenous Culture Liaison, Ohnia:kara Steering Committee.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Beer a bitter pill to swallow for thermal tasters, says Brock research https://brocku.ca/media-room/2019/02/04/beer-a-bitter-pill-to-swallow-for-thermal-tasters-says-brock-research/ Mon, 04 Feb 2019 17:49:02 +0000 http://brocku.ca/media-room/?p=1298 MEDIA RELEASE: 4 February 2019 – R00016

Beer lovers widely agree that while the world’s most popular alcoholic drink can be slightly bitter or mildly sour, it’s pleasant overall. But for about 20 per cent of the population, beer is uncomfortably bitter and sour, a Brock University research team has found.

‘Thermal tasters’ are people who experience bitterness, sourness, astringency and other non-sweet flavours at a highly intense level. These tastes come out after the food or drink is swallowed, with the aftertaste lingering for up to two minutes.

Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology Gary Pickering says thermal tasters don’t even need to swallow food or drink to taste bitterness or sourness.

“When we put a small probe on the tongue of someone who is a thermal taster and change the temperature, they taste bitterness or sourness, in effect, a ‘phantom taste’ because the taste comes from a temperature change to the tongue rather than food or drink,” he says.

In earlier research, Pickering explored the thermal taster phenomenon. He and his team wanted to take the earlier research one step further, asking whether thermal tasters experience beer in a different way.

In this latest research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Quality and Preference, 117 participants were asked to identify what they were tasting as they drank cold and warm samples of Molson Exel. They could choose any number of seven descriptors: astringent, bitter, carbonation, fruity/hops, malty, sour and sweet.

A non-alcoholic beer was chosen for the trials so participants could swallow the drink (important for experiencing the full range of taste sensations) without their ratings or judgment being affected by alcohol, Pickering says.

As an added twist, the participants in one of the trials listened to an audio clip of a can of cold beer being opened to see if that sound would enhance the sensation of carbonation during the tasting process.

Participants were also tested to identify who were thermal tasters among the group.

The researchers found that participants identified as thermal tasters reported the beer tasted bitter and sour at a higher rate than regular tasters, and they detected astringency and carbonation in cold beer more than warm beer. The sound clip of effervescence slightly enhanced thermal tasters’ ability to experience carbonation.

Pickering explains that the addition of the sound clip is part of a growing research area called cross-modal interactions, which examines how one sense (in this case, hearing) may interact with another (taste) to alter how consumer products are experienced. Another example would be colouring a product yellow if the manufacturer wanted it to taste more sour and citrus-like.

Also, thermal tasters’ ability to perceive flavours just by changing the temperature of their tongue might be a result of “cross-wiring” of taste nerves and trigeminal nerves in the oral cavity, says Pickering.

Taste nerves respond to sweetness, sourness, bitterness and other flavours, while trigeminal nerves are responsible for the sensations such as hot, cold and spiciness experienced when eating and drinking.

“Thermal tasting may be a proxy for general taste sensitivity,” he says.

Pickering says thermal tasters’ heightened sensitivity to bitterness and sourness “may be protective against alcohol misuse,” as thermal tasters would be less likely to start, or continue, drinking, since many alcoholic beverages would elicit these tastes at unpleasant levels.

He says the research results might also have implications for breweries and marketing experts, and that further research might explore how beer could be optimized for individuals such as thermal tasters who have different taste sensitivities.

“This research highlights that many factors influence flavour,” says PhD candidate Margaret Thibodeau, who is one of the study’s authors.

“More research is required to better understand the perception of alcoholic beverages,” she says.

To that end, Thibodeau is conducting another study that examines how thermal tasters perceive ethanol – the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages – compared to non-thermal tasters.

She is looking for female volunteers ages 19 to 40 to participate in that study. For more information, email mt10xw@brocku.ca

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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