Headlines (Campus Updates)
Two innovative research centres approved
Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
WATERLOO — How does our brain process the things we hear, see and feel? How does it control our memory, language and attention? What causes Parkinson’s disease, and how can we improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders?
Most people have given at least a passing thought to one of these questions. For two groups of Laurier researchers, however, these questions fuel their research passion.
Now, thanks to recent approval by the Laurier Senate, both groups will operate under formal research centres: the Laurier Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Laurier Movement Disorder Research and Rehabilitation Centre (MDRC).
“The approval of both these programs is a testament to the strong growth in the level of research activity during the past few years in the Faculty of Science,” says Dr. Art Szabo, dean of science.
Cognitive neuroscience combines cognitive psychology, neuroscience and technology to study the brain mechanisms behind thought and cognition. The Laurier Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience aims to become one of Canada’s premier centres in this area of research.
“Several of these researchers, such as Philip Servos (director of the centre), who is a Canada Research Chair, have already achieved international recognition for their contributions,” says Dr. Paul Maxim, associate vice-president: research.
The Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience will include six laboratories, each devoted to a different research area: attention, cognition in action (a lab unique in Canada), language and cognition, memory, perception, and speech and communication. The research from all of the labs will combine to answer questions that virtually all of neuroscience seeks to answer: how multiple perceptual streams are integrated and then translated into meaningful actions.
In addition to housing well-known researchers, the labs boast state-of-the-art technology. They include equipment such as eye-tracking devices, high-density EEG and ERP acquisition hardware and software, and a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) system. In addition, a new multimodal imaging facility will make it possible to integrate the data collected from the various technologies in the same research participant.
The Movement Disorder Research and Rehabilitation Centre, which has already gained national media attention and a grant from the Parkinson’s Society of Canada for its leading-edge research, will seek to understand and treat movement disorders, with a focus on Parkinson’s disease.
“By establishing this centre, Laurier is demonstrating its commitment to understanding and addressing a progressively debilitating disease,” says Maxim. “Laurier’s researchers, led by centre director Quincy Almeida, are making major gains in helping sufferers cope with this affliction.”
Through the MDRC, Laurier is the first university in Canada to integrate scientific research and rehabilitation to look at the influence of exercise rehabilitation on brain pathways for improved functional control of movement. It will also develop a validated assessment tool to measure the benefits of exercise.
In addition to Laurier researchers, the centre collaborates with researchers from the University of Western Ontario, University of Waterloo, McMaster University, University of British Columbia, medical doctors from Grand River Hospital and University Hospital in London, and international affiliates from Belgium, Australia and Israel.
By Lori Chalmers Morrison