Getting to know the brain

To better understand how the brain works means potential developments by researchers in understanding learning disorders and, learning as a whole.

Dr. Olav Krigolson. (Photo Courtesy of Dalhousie University)

This concept fascinates Dr. Olav Krigolson and he’s using recent funding from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) to delve deeper into the subject.

The British Columbia native, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, was awarded a $123,826 NSRIT award towards his total $309,565 project in October 2012.

“Until we actually understand how the brain works, we can’t really apply it,” said Krigolson. “We’re looking at basically how the processes in your brain (work), or how your brain makes a decision – what is your brain doing, why does it bias one way or the other when you do something or when you’re learning?”

He added the studies will look at decisions as simple as why people have to purchase things like a fashionable purse, to economic decisions like investing money.

The lab, which is unique to Canada, will feature three main pieces of equipment that will enable the research. A neuroimaging system will record brain activity during the learning process, a virtual reality system will allow the researchers to put people in specific environments and real-world situations and camera systems will record what people’s bodies are doing while experiments are taking place.

Krigolson, a former high school teacher, said he’d like to eventually take his work to the classroom. He said this work could involve everything from studying kids as they learn to exploring decision making in medical students and comparing those decisions to those of medical professionals.

“If there’s differences in their neural activity, what are they and is that something we can use to enhance the training of medical students?” he asked.

Eventually, Krigolson said he would like to make in-roads towards commercialization – through work with flight simulation companies.

The equipment and lab are expected to be in use in November.

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