The winner of McMaster's local bee will compete against more than 35 students from India, China and the U.S. at the University of Maryland next Friday.
Champs of the international competition (last year, it was a Canadian) will win cash — plus a summer internship at a neuroscientist's lab.
"The larger goal is to communicate ... the importance of neuroscience research," says Professor Judith Shedden, who started the McMaster bee four years ago. She also wants to promote the "excitement" of neuroscience to prospective university students.
Meanwhile, the students competing at McMaster — about 22 faced off in a written round and six made it to an oral speed round -- were concentrating on getting their facts straight. After all, substantia nigra was a piece of cake compared with some of the other questions. For example: Nogo-A is a protein that inhibits what? Answer: nerve regeneration.
Sixteen-year-old Isdin Oke twice answered correctly before stumbling on the question of what THC stands for. "I read it in the book, but I couldn't remember it," he said later.
And tension followed when Mays Ali, a 17-year-old from the same school as Colin, was asked: "What do you call the adaptive physical slate that results in withdrawal symptoms when drug use stops?"
"Tolerance," she promptly answered - not what the judges were expecting, though they decided in her favour and named her the winner of the semi finals.
Bom in Iraq, Mays has been living with her 25-year-old sister while her parents work in North Carolina. Her dream is to become a neurosurgeon.
Mind you, she loves reading as much as science. Of Jane Austen she says, "She writes incredibly complex and intriguing characters that are so engaging and lifelike."
Colin is also into several books at the moment, including Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel — though he admits he "skipped" a few pages on grain distribution.
As for his less-than-victorious performance at this year's Brain Bee? "Next.year is when I'm going to hit the books and really go for it," he says. "Mays is the real egghead around here. And that's not meant as an insult. That's meant as a compliment."
Julia McKinnell is a freelance writer based in Toronto.
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Video games keep you young: Study
Dec 21, 2006 01:10 PM
Forget cards and gentle aerobics - the best way to keep the elderly sharp is to teach them to play video games, new research suggests.
Psychology research at Hamilton’s McMaster University shows gamers who spend more than four hours a week playing action video games such as Medal of Honour and Half Life 2 have a surprising array of skills ranging from quick reaction times and good spatial reasoning to a strong awareness of their surroundings and better short-term memory... [more]
The first Annual McGraw-Hill Ryerson Student Scholarship Awards have been presented to twenty college and university students who displayed Integrity, Classroom Engagement and Initiative. Each student was nominated by their professors for their contributions to the teaching and learning environment and will receive a $500 award and Certificate signed by the President of the Higher Education Division.
Integrity - both academic and personal - empathy and respect for others
Classroom Engagement - behaviour and participation with a positive impact on their peers, their professor and the success of the class in general
Initiative - brought new ideas and critically drew upon the full array of learning resources to achieve a successful outcome in the classroom
(Posted Oct 20, 2006)
By Denise Davy
If it sometimes seems as though your child isn't paying attention, you're only half right.
A McMaster University study shows while children may well be listening to you, they're not able to grasp your message as quickly as you'd like.
"We expect children to respond to us with an adult level of detail and information," said David Shore, an associate professor of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour at McMaster and an adjunct faculty at McGill University.
"But they don't have the ability to process information as quickly as we do. "
The study -- involving 75 children aged six to 10, and 25 university students -- attempted to measure change detection in children and adults.
Study participants were shown a picture of a toy on a computer screen for a quarter of a second. The screen then went blank for a quarter of a second.
When the image came back, the scene had changed. This was repeated until the difference was detected. Findings were published in Developmental Science.
Shore said that adults often expect children as young as six or seven to have adultlike attention abilities.
But the study showed that the perceptual ability of a six-year-old was "abysmal compared to adults."
"We might say to our child, 'Pick up your shoes and put them away.' Then we repeat it right away because they don't react.
"It seems like it takes them forever to get the message, but it's only because their brain is still processing the message."
The task showed children start to develop perceptual ability around the age of eight or nine, said Shore.
But parents who are expecting their child to have the same listening and responding skills as adults will be frustrated.
"The important implication for parenting is to remember that 10-year-olds are, after all, children, despite their adultlike abilities," said Shore.
What the study says to parents is that they need to be more patient with children this age because their brains are unable to process information as quickly as they might like.
"It just takes time for those skills to develop. It's not that they're ignoring us on purpose."
Shore said the study findings may also be important in cases of children who are required to give eyewitness testimony in court.
(Posted Oct 19, 2006)
by Jane Christmas
Amid recent news reports of a terrifying bullying incident that nearly claimed the life of a disabled 14-year-old Manitoba boy, more than 6,000 students will take part in an annual anti-bullying rally today, believed to be the largest event of its kind in the world.
Nearly 45,000 students across southern Ontario, from Grades 4 to 8, have attended Basketball vs. Bullying in the last four years at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. This year's rally will feature basketball performer Q-Mack, TVOntario host Milton Barnes, motivational speaker Johnnie Williams, and a basketball game between the McMaster Marauders and the Alberta Golden Bears. It begins at 9:30 a.m. and continues until 1:30 p.m.
The event is the brainchild of Tracy Vaillancourt, an associate professor of psychology at McMaster University, and a leading authority on what has become a social epidemic.
However, despite greater social awareness about the serious and sometimes fatal consequences of bullying, and government initiatives (principals and vice-principals in Ontario are now required to take anti-bullying training) Vaillancourt says the subject remains a strangely taboo one for parents and children.
"I know from the research and from clinical practice that a lot of parents don't know how to talk to kids about serious matters, like bullying, and lots of kids are just as reluctant to raise the subject with their parents," says Vaillancourt. "The Raise Your Voice National Youth Study that was sponsored by Motorola revealed that kids feel the best time to talk to their parents about serious issues is when both parent and child are distracted--such as watching TV, playing a game, driving somewhere in the car, having dinner. Direct conversation is uncomfortable for both parties."
Bullying is a pervasive problem that chronically and ruthlessly affects 10 per cent of Canadian children. Recent Canadian studies highlight how widespread the problem is--more than 60 per cent of students report witnessing someone being bullied at their school over the course of a week. Results from the World Health Organization place Canada unfavourably in the top 3rd of 28 countries surveyed on bullying.
"It is absolutely essential for parents to get a sense of their child's school culture and establish regular communication about school experiences," says Vaillancourt. "The key to zeroing in on bullying behaviour is via open and regular conversation with your children. Try not to be judgmental when questioning their behaviour, but get the message across in a loving way that the behaviour is unacceptable and needs to be corrected."
More than 500 volunteers from McMaster University and Mohawk College, who are trained in bullying intervention and prevention strategies, will help facilitate the rally and reinforce the important message that bullying is socially unacceptable.
Basketball vs. Bullying is sponsored by Motorola and its Raise
Your Voice campaign in partnership with McMaster University, Mohawk
College, Hamilton Police Service, and TVOntario.
(Posted Oct 11, 2006)
Ability to multitask can be relearned, regardless of age
By Carmelina Prete
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 5, 2006)
Your teen does homework, instant messages friends and watches TV at the same time.
Multitasking comes so easily to the young, but it gets harder to divide your attention as you age.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that a new study suggests multitasking can be re-learned.
Science Convocation begins week of graduate celebrations
Two students receive Governor General's Academic Medal today
by Deborah McIvor
2006 Governor General's Academic Medals
This year, the Faculty of Science has the honour of graduating two students who have excelled academically and are recipients of the Governor General's Academic Silver Medal. Given by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General, the Silver Medal is awarded to the undergraduate who achieves the highest academic standing upon graduation from a bachelor degree program.
McMaster was awarded two of these medals for 2005-06 based on full-time equivalent undergraduate enrolment numbers. This year the medal has been designed for Michaëlle Jean, sporting the Coat of Arms accompanied by various images that allude to Haitian culture evoking the victory of Jean's ancestors over barbarism, the call to liberty, peace and the natural riches of Canada. The other side of the medal displays Jean and her spouse, Jean-Daniel LaFond (Viceregal consort).
Working extensively with Allison Sekuler in the Vision and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at McMaster, Sergi has earned the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. In the past two years, she has completed her Honours Thesis and is currently conducting research in face perception.
Sergi has collected a number of academic awards while at McMaster, including the multi-year Lillian and Leroy Page Scholarship. Her other awards include the Nina Louise Hooper Scholarship, the P.L. Newbigging Scholarship, the J.L.W. Gill Prize, and the Dr. Harry Lyman Hooker Scholarship which she has won twice.
Moore cuts up an old car she found abandoned a year ago
at the bottom of the Albion Falls escarpment. The psychology
research assistant at McMaster - and Keep Hamilton Clean
volunteer - made it her goal to remove the auto, and has
been laboriously disassembling it. City hall red tape delayed
the project, but the pieces can now be removed.
(posted May 5 2006)
Assistant Professor in Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, Tracy Vaillancourt will be appearing on the show "More 2 Life" tonight (live) at 7 p.m. (TVO). The topic is bullying and Barbra Coloroso will also be appearing. [more]
What do you get when you cross an arts-loving lawyer with a poetry-loving scientist? Give up? The answer: Allison Sekuler, McMaster's newly appointed associate vice-president of research.
Sekuler, professor of psychology, neuroscience & behaviour and Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, is the first to hold the new position and it's really no surprise she landed the job given her background, interests and up bringing. She's the daughter of a lawyer and a scientist - both of whom have as much interest in their extra-curricular activities as they do their full-time jobs. And, suffice it to say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Although a scientist by day, Sekuler could have easily been drawn to the arts. She credits her parents for encouraging the value of a well-rounded education. "It was something that was assumed - something that came naturally," she says, adding this is the philosophy she'll continue to follow in her new position.
Bridging research across traditional areas is something she believes has already served McMaster well and she'd love to see more of it. "McMaster's already made great strides in this multidisciplinary approach to research, while continuing to support fundamental areas of research and scholarship." Her primary mission is to work with others in facilitating a vibrant and diverse community of research and scholarship.
"When I look at McMaster, I see great strengths and even greater potential. Sharing information and ideas across campus - across the traditional boundaries - will lead to great things. We can't work in isolation. We need to talk more to one another to find out what's going on. We all have interests in common, even though we may take different approaches to our research." She's convinced that sharing ideas will lead to stronger research programs and ensure that McMaster keeps its title of Canada's most innovative university.
And she practices what she preaches. Through her own research she's bridged the historical gap between disciplines. She's a founding member of the new interdisciplinary School of Computational Engineering and Science (a joint venture between the Faculties of Science and Engineering), and she serves on the advisory board for McMaster's Collaboration for Health initiative and as a co-leader of the Collaborations theme in development across the lifespan (a venture that includes researchers from Science, Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities as well as the University's partner hospitals).
Sekuler has spent more than 15 years in academia, maintaining her stellar research record while holding a number of administrative positions. She and her husband, Patrick Bennett, Canada Research Chair in Vision Science, came to McMaster in 2001 from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on vision science and cognitive neuroscience, with special interests in perceptual organization, face perception, perceptual learning, neural plasticity, neuroimaging, aging, and autism.
Mamdouh Shoukri, vice-president (research & international affairs) says the time was right to create the new position to move the University's research agenda forward. McMaster's research portfolio has grown at an unprecedented rate over the last five years - totaling nearly $250 million last year. It was this increased activity, coupled with a strong research vision that led to the creation of the new position.
Shoukri's convinced he's got just the right person to take on the new role, adding it's not just Sekuler's research and administrative record that made her the ideal candidate to advance the University's research mission, but her ability, enthusiasm and commitment to promote research outside of the University. "Her commitment to public outreach is, really, second to none," he says noting that with her leadership and guidance, McMaster has developed two very significant and popular outreach programs - Science in the City and Café Scientific.
In her new position, Sekuler will manage the University's research operations including Tri-Council relations, research ethics policies, reviews of research centres and institutes, and nominations for prizes and awards. She'll also be responsible for identifying and anticipating funding opportunities in the public and private sectors, facilitating the development of suitable funding proposals, and defining and promoting the use of appropriate indicators for measuring the vigor and success of the University's research activities. Her appointment became effective March 1, 2006.
As of September 2006, linguistics and psychology, two disciplines from the opposite sides of campus that both seek to understand the human mind and experience, will come together to form McMaster's newest interdisciplinary program: Linguistic Cognitive Science.
Housed in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, the program will combine courses and concepts from both humanities and science, exposing students to a broad range of knowledge and practical skills through distinctive areas of concentration.
Cognitive science is the scientific study of the mind and its processes, including emotion, thought, creativity, memory and language. Linguistics, the scientific study of language in all its forms, including natural language development, organization and use, is often considered to be central to the understanding of cognitive science. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of each field has provided the ideal circumstances for the creation of the Linguistic Cognitive Science Program.
Unique in Canada for its advanced level of integration, the program will allow students to tailor their education by offering specialized courses four areas: cognitive science, speech and language pathology preparation, language and social life; and teaching English as a second language. Alex Sévigny, one of the program's founders, is particularly excited about the opportunities for graduate study that each area of concentration will afford to its students. "Each area blends both the arts and sciences, so every student who graduates will not only have a background in language as a cognitive neural system, but also as a social and cultural system," he says.
The idea for the new program first materialized two and a half years ago when Sévigny, a French and communication studies professor with a cognitive linguistics specialization, and Karin Humphreys of the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, realized that while McMaster possessed a rich populace of researchers in the areas of languages and cognition, no program was available to explore the complex relationship that exists between the two fields. The proposal for such a program led to the formation of a committee of professors from the Departments of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, Modern Languages and Linguistics, French, and Philosophy. The committee developed a plan and curriculum for the new program, which was approved as a collaborative venture between the various departments.
What really makes the program stand out, however, is the special training that will be given to students in the concentrations of speech and language pathology preparation(SLP) and teaching English as a second language(TESL). The SLP concentration has been developed in conjunction with local speech and language pathologists, and will include a three-unit practicum for each student that will be taught by practicing pathologists.
The courses being offered in this stream will also ensure that students obtain the necessary prerequisites for any Masters of Science degree in Speech and Language Pathology in Canada. The TESL stream also contains a practical component, and will allow students to become officially certified to teach English as a second language.
Sévigny and Humphreys are currently working on a proposal for a $1.2 million government grant which, if awarded, would go towards the construction of a research environment catering specifically to the Linguistic Cognitive Science program. The lab would draw researchers from diverse associated fields throughout McMaster, and would allow Humanities students to participate in the study of cognitive science on their own terms instead of having to borrow lab time from other programs on campus.
Humphreys is particularly excited by the potential this lab raises for collaboration between researchers in humanities, science, and health sciences. "For centuries, scholars in the humanities have led the way for us all in working to define the central questions about the human mind and experience. Science, on the other hand, can bring new and useful techniques and methodologies for addressing these crucial questions."
For Sévigny, the introduction of the program recognizes the growing need, both socially and academically, to understand the complex relationship between the physiology of the human brain and the ways in which it is influenced by and responds to cultural stimuli. With the baby boomer generation aging, Sévigny comments, the need for experts in the area of linguistic cognitive science is steadily increasing as it becomes more evident that new therapies can be developed to help restore speech with a deeper knowledge of the interaction between the brain and culture.
"Memory, pain, trauma and language will involve new therapies, and those therapies will have ethical questions attached to them," says Sévigny. "Cognitive science is going to restore the universal questions that are raised in the humanities - notions of truth, notions of intrinsic human nature. This field deals with everything from aesthetics to ethics, and it is going to bring the sciences and the humanities back together."
(Posted Feb 6, 2006)
Research by McMaster psychologist Sigal Balshine made headlines in this week's issue of Nature for a study that suggests women like a funny man and men like women who laugh at their jokes.
Her study, with Eric Bressler of Westfield State College, Massachusetts, asked more than 200 male and female college students to examine photos of members of the opposite sex. Some had funny quotes pinned beneath them, such as: "My high school was so rough we had our own coroner." Others had bland ones: "I'd rather walk to school than take the bus."
Women ranked the humorous men as better potential partners, the researchers found - and as more friendly, fun and popular. Men's view of a woman, on the other hand, appeared to be uninfluenced by her wit.
(Nature.com, Jan. 23, 2006) - [Full story]
(Posted Jan 13 2006)
Jeff Galef, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, discussed the implications of a recent Nature article in Science News.
Little Professors: Ants as animal teachers
No insult intended to human teachers, but a research team in England says that the first clear demonstration of true teaching among other animals comes from a species without much of a brain—an ant.
A variety of animals do things that onlookers learn to copy, but biologists have a stricter definition for true teaching, explains Nigel R. Franks of the University of Bristol in England. First, teachers do a task less efficiently than they would outside the classroom. Second, pupils of a true teacher learn faster than they would by themselves .Franks and his Bristol colleague Tom Richardson added another requirement: feedback between teacher and student.The tiny ant, Temnothorax albipennis, from England's southern coast, meets the criteria, Franks and Richardson report in the Jan. 12 Nature. In lab tests, the species' teachers guided nest mates to a food source (To see a video of this behavior, click here).
"One would have expected to see teaching in chimpanzees or [some other primate], but for the first fairly strong evidence of it to come from ants is surprising and interesting," says Bennett G. Galef Jr. of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Last year, Galef and his colleagues reported that mother rats didn't teach their young to tell good food from bad in a lab test.