New lab at St. F.X. helps re­search on brain func­tions

The Casket - - Local - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

Re­search­ing brain func­tions has been aided greatly at St. F.X. with the open­ing of the Ap­plied Neuro-cog­ni­tive Re­search (ANCHOR) lab­o­ra­tory in J. Bruce Brown Hall.

An of­fi­cial open­ing of the lab took place Dec. 14 with re­searchers and oth­ers as­so­ci­ated with the space joined by Antigo­nish MLA Randy Delorey. The province’s Min­is­ter of Health, a St. F.X. alum­nus, joined as it was noted $40,000 from the provin­cial govern­ment’s Nova Sco­tia Re­search and In­no­va­tion Trust, as well as $40,000 from the Canada Foun­da­tion of In­no­va­tion (CFI), was used to ac­quire new re­search equip­ment.

“As the lo­cal MLA and an alum­nus, I’m ex­tremely proud we’re see­ing some of the in­vest­ments right here at St. F.X. but, equally, as a lo­cal res­i­dent and alum­nus, I’m not sur­prised. I’m well aware of the cal­iber of re­search that takes place here on this cam­pus,” Delorey said dur­ing the open­ing event, which took place in the lab.

“And as was noted, it isn’t just about col­lab­o­ra­tion here on cam­pus between re­searchers in the var­i­ous de­part­ments, but also that op­por­tu­nity to col­lab­o­rate, build on, lever­age and en­hance, those in­vest­ments at other in­sti­tu­tions, like the ref­er­ence to the MS [mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis] re­search at Dal­housie.

“That’s all part of the provin­cial plan as well, so it’s great to see our aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and our re­searchers col­lab­o­rat­ing.”

Delorey also noted how the lab ben­e­fits not only sea­soned re­searchers.

“This is some­thing we see on this cam­pus; un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate and ac­cess high-end re­search op­por­tu­ni­ties and tech­nol­ogy,” he said. “In other larger in­sti­tu­tions, of­ten those op­por­tu­ni­ties are only avail­able for grad­u­ate stu­dents. It’s one of the great things about un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies at St. F.X.”

The min­is­ter talked more about the province’s re­search and in­no­va­tion trust.

“This is an area for our govern­ment, and I’ve cer­tainly been a strong ad­vo­cate and sup­porter of; in­vest­ment in our post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions and their re­search,” he said.

“We had the op­por­tu­nity, when our fi­nances al­lowed, to put ad­di­tional money into this trust to sup­port re­search across the province and I think, again, the pro­posal to get this equip­ment and sup­port this lab is a tes­ta­ment to the qual­ity of re­searchers here at St. F.X.

“It re­ally aligns well with the pri­or­i­ties and vi­sion of the in­vest­ments be­ing made across the province.”

One of the re­searchers, Dean of Sci­ence at St. F.X. Pe­tra Hauf, said the vi­sion for the lab be­gan about a year ago.

“At first we had to con­struct; this room didn’t look like this, so we had to do the con­struc­tion to cre­ate this space and then pur­chase the equip­ment,” she said. “All the soft­ware had to be up­dated and the re­searchers had to get spe­cial train­ing. It’s not like you can just sit down there and know how to do it.”

Hauf said they’ve been up and run­ning since the sum­mer and the up­take has been very good.

She talked about the dif­fer­ent de­part­ments tak­ing ad­van­tage of the lab.

“At the mo­ment we have psy­chol­ogy, dif­fer­ent ar­eas of psy­chol­ogy, neuro sci­ence, de­vel­op­men­tal psy­chol­ogy, hu­man ki­net­ics; and we have re­searchers here who are part of the new health pro­gram look­ing into the im­pacts on health,” she said, not­ing one area, as an ex­am­ple, deals with aging.

“How mo­tor skills change when we age and how can we help with that process. It’s also ac­ces­si­ble for de­part­ments in com­puter sci­ence and math­e­mat­ics and sta­tis­tics.

“It’s al­ways help­ful if you have those re­search op­por­tu­ni­ties here on cam­pus. Be­cause we’re a small, un­der­grad­u­ate in­sti­tu­tion, if you want to do this kind of re­search where we don’t have this equip­ment here, we’re re­ly­ing on other in­sti­tu­tions and col­lab­o­ra­tions. It works but it’s not the same as if you have it at home, and you can just do. This will in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity be­cause it de­creases the is­sues with ac­cess to those fa­cil­i­ties.”

Richard Macken­zie

Antigo­nish MLA and Min­is­ter of Health and Well­ness Randy Delorey joined St. F.X. re­searchers in a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony Dec. 14 to of­fi­cially open the Ap­plied Neuro-cog­ni­tive Re­search (ANCHOR) lab­o­ra­tory in J. Bruce Brown Hall. Pic­tured are; Dean of Sci­ence and psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Pe­tra Hauf (left), PHD can­di­date Me­gan Macgillivray, hu­man ki­net­ics pro­fes­sor Me­lanie Lam, psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Lind­sey Ber­ri­gan, fourth year hon­ours psy­chol­ogy and bi­ol­ogy stu­dent Tessa An­zai and lab re­search tech­ni­cian Ash­ley Fran­cis.

Richard Macken­zie

An elec­troen­cephalo­gram (EEG), used to record elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity of the brain, is an ex­am­ple of the new equip­ment pur­chased to set-up the Ap­plied Neuro-cog­ni­tive Re­search (ANCHOR) lab­o­ra­tory at St. F.X.

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