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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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UOIT researcher: Brain training could have therapeutic implications for anxiety, depression, substance abuse

Dr. Matthew Shane, Assistant Professor, FSSH and FHS; Assistant Professor, Translational Neuroscience,  The Mind Research Network; and Director, CANdiLab.
Dr. Matthew Shane, Assistant Professor, FSSH and FHS; Assistant Professor, Translational Neuroscience, The Mind Research Network; and Director, CANdiLab.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but negative feedback offers a lots of positives. It allows you to recognize that things are not working out as planned, or to initiate corrective behaviours. Recent research suggests your brain may be naturally wired to react to signals that indicate you have made a mistake. It’s your brain’s way of helping you prepare for the next time you encounter a similar situation.

However, sometimes a person’s response to negative feedback is too strong, and may get in the way of their ability to function in certain situations. People with anxiety or depression often exhibit an overly large response to negative feedback, which may play a role in the development or maintenance of their negative mood states. Alternatively, sometimes one’s response to negative feedback is not strong enough, and may hinder the ability to learn from previous negative experiences.  People living with significant substance abuse issues often show a reduced brain response to negative feedback, which may reduce their ability to learn how to quit their addictive behaviours.

But what if you could train your brain to more appropriately respond to negative feedback? Through his research, Dr. Matthew Shane, Assistant Professor cross-appointed to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s (UOIT) faculties of Social Science and Humanities (FSSH) and Health Sciences (FHS), and Director, Clinical Affective Neuroscience Laboratory for Discovery and Innovation (CANdiLab), has discovered that this is possible - and his findings could help lead to the development of new therapeutic interventions for people who suffer from anxiety, depression or substance abuse.

As both a Forensic Psychology and Health Sciences researcher, Dr. Shane uses cognitive neuroscience methods to better understand the cognitive and emotional processes that underlie various psychological disorders. Dr. Shane has worked with Dr. Christina Weywadt of the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to evaluate the extent to which healthy individuals can voluntarily change the way their brain responds to negative feedback.

Study participants were asked to estimate how long they felt one second took and were given positive or negative feedback indicating how accurate their estimate was. They performed this task three times: once normally; once while trying to increase their brain’s response following negative feedback; and once while trying to decrease that brain response.

Even though participants did not receive guidance on how to alter their neural activity, they still showed an ability to increase and decrease their brain’s response to negative feedback by trying to move their brain activity in the desired direction. When they successfully changed their brain’s response, it influenced the way they tried to correct their next estimate.

Dr. Shane says the findings may have wide-ranging implications for helping people with various psychological disorders, whether they are characterized by an over- or under-active brain response to negative feedback.

“If we can help individuals suffering from these disorders to alter their brain’s response to negative feedback, then we may be able to help lessen their clinical symptoms.”

The research also has implications for children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who often show a reduced response to negative feedback. “Teaching these children to increase their neural responses may improve their ability to stay on task and learn from their mistakes”.

The research published in the journal PLoS One. It was supported by an award to Dr. Shane from the Mind Research Network, and through funding from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Future research will evaluate whether more-intensive training protocols will lead to symptom reduction in patients.