Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister cuts the ribbon at grand opening of StFX lab that measures cognitive abilities in the brain

December 17th, 2018
Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Randy Delorey (third from left) cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Applied Neuro-Cognitive Research (ANChoR) Laboratory at StFX. Also pictured, l-r, are Dean of Science and psychology professor Dr. Petra Hauf, PhD candidate Megan MacGillivray, human kinetics professor Dr. Melanie Lam, psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan, fourth year honours psychology and biology student Tessa Anzai, lab research technician Ashley Francis, and Dean of Arts Dr. Karen Brebner.

The Hon. Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness was on campus Dec. 14, 2018 to officially cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the Applied Neuro-Cognitive Research (ANChoR) Laboratory, where three StFX faculty are researching and measuring  cognitive abilities in the brain.

Funding support of $40,000 each from the Province of Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust), as well as the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) was used to acquire new advanced research equipment. The lab is equipped with electroencephalography (EEG) technology, which records the electrical activity of the brain, and enables faculty to research the biological systems that support how people think. 

StFX psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan, human kinetics professor Dr. Mel Lam, and Dean of Science and psychology professor Dr. Petra Hauf each carry out differing cognitive neuroscience research in the lab. The research programs are diverse, reflecting the unique background of each of the team members. 

StFX psychology professor Dr. Lindsay Berrigan (left) speaks with Minister Randy Delorey about the research happening in the  ANChoR Lab

 The lab was created, they say, to investigate the biological systems involved in a variety of cognitive abilities, such as how we process information from our environment, movement control, attention, learning, memory, using electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs).

The researchers say they are capable of studying these abilities across the lifespan, from infancy to old age, and in individuals affected by developmental disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. 

“Support from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT), CFI, and others allowed us to move beyond studying these cognitive abilities using only behavioural observation to now also measure how the brain is functioning, in turn determining the biological activity related to our cognitive skills. This research will have important benefits for Nova Scotians,” they say.

“For example, understanding biological constraints on our ability to attend to and remember new information can inform education curriculum and training programs. Furthermore, understanding the changes in brain function that cause cognitive difficulties for people with the aforementioned disorders and diseases will help us to improve healthcare services. Our research has the potential to improve diagnostic measures, to develop effective rehabilitation programs, and to provide valuable information in the development of new medications.”

Dr. Berrigan investigates how cognitive abilities are influenced by diseases and disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. The goals of her research include refining methods of identifying cognitive dysfunction, improving cognitive health, and ultimately, to improving patients’ quality of life. 

Dr. Lam’s research seeks to answer the question “how does the brain receive, organize, and understand sensory input for action?” Her research explores the cognitive and neural processes that support action prediction and action planning when two or more people perform a task together. 

The research conducted by Dr. Hauf focuses on the link of motor development and cognitive development in infants, and the impact of motor experience on cognitive functions essential for movement perception, object exploration, and action understanding. 

Minister Delorey noted the funding support is a testament to the quality and caliber of the research. As well, he noted strengths of the lab include cross-department and cross-institutional collaboration opportunities and the involvement of undergraduate and master’s students in high-end technology and research. The research, he says, aligns well with the province’s priorities and vision. 

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