Canadian Scientists Organizing Boycott Against US Conferences

An article posted on Motherboard discusses the boycott of several Canadian scientists against attending US conferences as a form of protest against the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. Western’s own neuroscientist Dr. Owen has offered to compensate the cancellation fees of others from Western’s Brain and Mind Institute and pay for international scientists to come to the university to present their research. Dr. Minda and the Categorization Lab are also considering joining the boycott, but a final decision has not yet been made.

Explaining the causal links between illness management and symptom reduction

Exciting new research published in Patient Education and Counseling was led by Karen Zhang, a recent grad from the Categorization Lab. Zhang and her fellow researchers revealed that providing explanation for why illness management is effective for reducing symptomatology can help improve the knowledge and application of health information for younger individuals. In contrast, reducing verbal demands of patient education material may help older adults learn new health information better.


Recent PhD Graduates

Congratulations to two recent PhDs from the Categorization lab. Rachel Rabi defended her dissertation August of 2016 and is now working as a postdoc at the Rotman Institute in Toronto. Rachel’s doctoral work investigated category learning in older adults. You can read some of her work on her Research Gate profile and her doctoral dissertation is available here.

Karen Zhang completed her dissertation in November of 2016 and she is now a clinical intern at St Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton Ontario. Karen’s work was on patient learning and understanding. You can read her dissertation here, and peer reviewed publications are forthcoming.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Flexibility

Author and Lawyer Jeena Cho discussed some current research on mindfulness and cognitive flexibility with Dr. Minda for an article in Forbes magazine. Mindfulness meditation can help people to be more attentive to their own emotions, and by being aware of negative feelings as soon as they arise, people can engage in positive remediation rather than dwelling on the negative cognition. Read the entire Forbes article here.

Category Learning in Older Adulthood: The Role of Age and Executive Functioning

If you are at the Psychonomics meeting in Boston in November, stop by the Cognitive Aging session (Back Bay C & D, Saturday Morning, 8:00-10:00). Dr. Minda will be giving a talk entitled “Category Learning in Older Adulthood: The Role of Age and Executive Functioning” based on some of Rachel Rabi’s doctoral work.

We asked older and younger adults to learn category sets of varying rule complexity. Older adults performed comparable to younger adults when learning single-dimensional rule-based categories, but struggled greatly with learning complex rule-based categories, which taxed their working memory resources. A second experiment examined whether complex rule-based categorization performance could be improved in older adults by reducing task demands. Following familiarization with the category set, older adults demonstrated marked improvements in performance. The reduction of the working memory demands allowed the older adults to formulate the complex rule and to perform comparably to younger adults. Our findings suggest that age-related declines in executive functioning may be associated with difficulty learning more complex rule-based categories.

Slides from the talk are available HERE

Will meditation help stressed-out lawyers?

Western News has a short article about our new research study underway with Jeena Cho. We’re looking at how mindfulness meditation affects lawyers. This is part of a larger stream of research in my lab where we’re examining mindfulness and cognition in the lab as well as in the workplace. We’ve got a similar study underway with 3M Canada as well….we’re hoping to have preliminary data in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Cognitive Aging and Category Learning

A brief write-up in Science Daily of some research and an article published this summer with some collaborators at  Ruhr University in Bochum Germany. We showed that older adults learned perceptual classifications about as well as younger adults, until they reached the point that they had to learn some exceptions. The older adults tended to stick with the rules, even if it meant making more errors. But other work (under review now) is looking at ways to mitigate or eliminate some of the mild cognitive impairments associated wth normal aging…