Research centre awarded provincial infrastructure funding 

By Balbir Gill

If you want to keep a city running you have to invest in its infrastructure; the roads and systems that keep people moving and working. So if your focus is research it means investing in updated tools. The Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH) will soon upgrade some of its equipment with a $230 000 grant from the Ministère du Développement économique, Innovation, et Exportation (MDEIE).

This is one of two allocations received from MDEIE, the first time these funds were allocated to Concordia. The other grant will purchase equipment for the Education Department's Centre for Funding of Learning and Performance.

“We are very happy about the news,” said CRDH Associate Director Karen Li. “The review process was very long with MDEIE and included a site visit, so we worked very hard to get to the end result.” She added that the application she worked on was a group effort as a number of people wrote sections depending on their expertise. The new equipment will be purchased by early 2009.

CRDH brings together researchers from areas such as psychology, exercise science and education to study development in people ranging from infants to seniors. The centre has been based at Concordia since inception 25 years ago and includes members from UQÀM, Université Laval, McGill University and Collège de Maisonneuve.

Some of the funds will improve equipment in the observation lab. Its videotape equipment has been subjected to a lot of wear and tear over the years as it has been heavily used by CRDH faculty and students. Part of the new funding will allow an upgrade to digital recording equipment and new cameras for the lab as well as portable video recorders for researchers who go into households to conduct their studies.

Li said the CRDH observation lab is often used to study individual behaviour as well as interactions between people. As an example a researcher doing child studies may use it to look at interactions between a parent and child. Activities with the pair in the observation lab would be recorded. Then the researcher would go over the footage to track specific behaviours such as how often the child turns to look at the parent when completing a task.

The MDEIE funds will also be used to purchase the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Auto-mated Battery (CANTAB) which tests cognitive functions. “It is a computerized collection of cognitive tests that measure memory, attention and decision making. It all comes in the form of a laptop which has the tests and calculates the score.” Li said many CRDH researchers use sensory and cognitive tests and the CANTAB is a standard in the field.

Researchers Dolores Pushkar (Psychology) and Dorothea Bye (who received the CRDH Knowledge Transfer scholarship in 2007) will use the CANTAB to figure out the effectiveness of cognitive training products which exercise your brain to help ward off cognitive decline as you age.

Li hopes to encourage even more communication and collaboration amongst researchers through a new video-conferencing system. “One obstacle (to collaborative work) is geography,” she pointed out. “The objective is to overcome that obstacle.” She is confident that the new system will help CRDH members work together more easily as well as give remote access to activities and lectures to those who cannot be there in person.

“Video-conferencing is a much more dynamic way of having a conference than by telephone since you can put things on the blackboard for everyone to see.” She added that this communication system will make international collaboration easier for the CRDH. And when you’re dealing with colleagues who live across the province and across the world, anything you can do to minimize the distances between them helps things run more smoothly.


Concordia University