Bulletin of the Centre for
Research in Human Development



Volume 5 Issue 4, Winter-Spring, 2013

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Celebrating the CRDH Student Success

Success at every Corner and through every Lens 
By Shireen Abuhatoum and Melanie Mulligan

The CRDH Welcomes a New Post-doctoral Fellow
By: Jacqueline Legacy

Giving research to the ‘real world’ - CRDH Students Succeed at the Three-Minute Thesis Competition
By Matthew T. Keough

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Success at every Corner and through every Lens
by Shireen Abuhatoum and Melanie Mulligan

CRDH Annual Conference

The CRDH Annual Conference is an excellent forum to celebrate and share undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral research and this year was no exception!  On the 14th and 15th of February 2013, CRDH Trainees from across disciplines gathered at Concordia University to showcase the breadth and excitement of what’s happening in their research laboratories.  Students presented their most recent work through poster presentations and paper symposiums.  Research from within and across all Axes were well represented in this year’s theme of Successful Development, shedding light on the unique structure of CRDH and its focus on lifespan stages in human development.

The poster and paper presentations held at CRDH not only offer Trainees a chance to present their hard work, but also provides students with the opportunity to practice their presentation skills, communicate their main points while engaging colleagues in conversation, bridge connections with researchers, and gain access to additional career opportunities.

Undergraduate Poster Presentation

For the second time, this year’s Annual Conference provided undergraduate students with the opportunity to share their findings from their theses and collaborations in research projects.  The excitement and enthusiasm radiating from each of the presenters was hard to miss.  Hayley Morgan, a 4th year undergraduate student in psychology shared, “I’m loving the experience! It brings a lot of confidence to show your work”.

Due to the successful turnout (14 undergraduate and 19 graduate posters) and hard work put forth by all of the students, when announcing the results for the winners of the best undergraduate and graduate poster, Associate Director of CRDH, Dr. Karen Li, acknowledged, “It was a very close call.  We saw a variety of very high quality posters”.

Honourable mentions were given out to undergraduate students Jessica Londei-Shortall for her work on infants’ expectations when exposed to new words and Bianca Garcia for her work on children’s beliefs on native language acquisition (both of whom work in the Infant Research Laboratory which is directed by Dr. Krista Byers-Heinlein).

Prize winner for best undergraduate poster was awarded to Cristina Crivello from Dr. Diane Poulin-Dubois’s Cognitive and Language Development Laboratory.  Her outstanding work resulted in the first study to validate the Computerized Comprehension Task as measure of bilingual infant’s receptive vocabulary.

The atmosphere during the undergraduate poster session was certainly a buzzing one.  Students stood by their posters, both ready and willing to engage audiences whose interests may have been sparked.  When asked what it is like to present a poster for the first time, Sarah-Eve Hamel, a student from the Personality, Aging, and Health Laboratory (directed by Dr. Carsten Wrosch) stated, “This is exciting for me.”  Sarah-Evepresented her honours thesis investigating the use of Health Engagement Control Strategies (e.g., exercise; HECS) by caregivers of family members with mental illness over a 4-year period.  “We found that those with low burden at baseline don’t benefit so much from the health engagement strategies, but those with high burden such as these caregivers do (i.e., higher use of HECS linked with lower depressive symptoms) and we also found that this does not change over time”.  When asked about the implication of these findings, Sarah-Eve highlighted the importance of enhancing caregivers awareness of the tools they have at their disposal to more positively handle a burdensome situation.

One poster that garnered the attention was byKimberly Burnside, a student supervised by Dr. Dale Stack in the Infant and Child Studies Laboratory.  She conducted a study examining the communicative functions (e.g., regulatory, playful, attention-centred) of mutual touch during face-to-face interactions of mothers and their 5 ½ month-old infants using the still-face paradigm.  “Mutual touch is when the infants and mothers are dynamically and simultaneously touching,” said Kimberly.  Overall, her findings showed an increase in regulatory mutual touch and a decrease in attention-centred touch. When describing her findings, Kimberly explains, “The still face paradigm is often used for gaze research, but not as much for Touch research.  Mutual touch is a very important communicative modality and we found that infants use touch to compensate for a moment where there was less emotional availability.”

Graduate Poster Presentation

Ryan Persram presenting a poster at the CRDH Annual Conference

Once again the graduate poster session served as a platform for CRDH Trainees to demonstrate their contributions in varied areas of research spanning issues related to the development of successful relationships, goal-directed behaviour, health outcomes, and skill acquisition.

One of the highlights (among many) was an honourable mention given out to Concordia doctoral student, Erin K. Johns in Dr. Natalie Phillips’ Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory.  Erin conducted a study measuring inhibition on a Go/No-Go task with event-related brain potentials in patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and healthy controls.  Erin proposes that MCI is a precursor to AD and that MCI is situated on a continuum between normal healthy patients and AD patients.  Preliminary results indicated significant differences between the healthy controls and the AD patients on tests of executive function including inhibitory and MCI patients differed from healthy controls on inhibitory control measures.

Ryan Persram, graduate student supervised by Dr. Nina Howe in the Child Study Program (Education Department), was the recipient of the award for best graduate poster.  He presented a study based on his Master’s thesis investigating naturalistic conflicts in family interactions involving at least three members.  His findings revealed that when additional family members joined in the conflict it was most often to ally themselves with one of the initial combatants rather than mediate the situation.  His results further showed that conflicts mostly ended by one of the alliances submitting with children doing so more often than parents.  Congratulations to Ryan for his outstanding work that unravels the complexity of family interactions and highlights the pivotal role alliances play in family conflict.

McGill student and physician, Franz Veru (supervised by Dr. Suzanne King) presented his work on prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) in rats.  Franz explained that certain conditions, such as asthma could be caused by the presence of PNMS leading to problems with functioning of the immune system. His work investigated the relation between psychosocial stress and cytokine function (protein related to the immune functioning).  Pregnant rats were exposed to chronic stress in one of three conditions: prenatal, postnatal and control group. Cytokine blood levels were measured and revealed a lower production of cytokine in prenatal stress conditions compared to other conditions.  Franz mentioned that the prenatal is a critical period during which stress could affect future immune system functioning in offspring.

Danielle Kingdon (supervised by Dr. Lisa Serbin) presented her Master’s thesis, which investigated mothers’ involvement in academic success of low-income populations of boys and girls.  This longitudinal project followed children from early elementary to the end of high school.  The results of this study indicate that although all children demonstrated a decline in success when transitioning from elementary to high school, boys showed more declines.  Danielle stated that the most notable protective factor for these boys was their mothers’ involvement in their child’s academic success.  Importantly, mothers’ involvement had long-term positive effects on academic success over time.  Danielle explains that this sample was composed of mothers’ as being primarily involved in the child’s schooling.  A future direction would be to investigate the father-son dynamic as a protective factor against academic decline.

Graduate and Post-Doctoral Presentations

            This year’s CRDH Annual Conference ended with five phenomenal paper presentations by Master, PhD, and Post-doctoral level Trainees with topics ranging in both content and style.  Successful development was captured by Sabrina Chiarella’s examination of infants’ understanding of emotions and highlighted by Kelsey Dancause investigation of the effects of stressful life events on birth outcomes.  The development of successful relationships was further conveyed by Irene Mantis, who presented her Master’s thesis work on parent-infant mutual touch in at risk populations and Stephanie Peccia, who conducted a qualitative analysis of children’s perceptions of school entry.  Finally, with regards to successful aging, Kiran Vadaga presented his ongoing PhD work investigating older adults’ declines in suppressing distractor information.

This year’s CRDH Annual Conference was a big success indeed!  Undergraduate and graduate students alike gathered to share in their ideas and research findings.  A simple glance at the Trainees in action is all it would take to see the enthusiasm and hard work put forth in their collaborations, theses, and research studies.





Kiran Vadaga

Associate Editors

Rami Nijjar
Shireen Abuhatoum



Jackie Legacy
Matthew T. Keough
Melanie Mulligan-Pittarelli
Shireen Abuhatoum




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