Did you know that February is psychology month?
Did you know that at Mount Saint Vincent University we are fortunate to have an excellent psychology department?
To celebrate psychology month, we’re pleased to highlight some of our amazing psychology professors and the interesting research they’re leading.
Meet Dr. Christine Lackner
Dr. Christine Lackner is a professor in the Department of Psychology at MSVU. Her post-secondary education began at Brock University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Psychology and Child and Youth Studies (Honours). She obtained a Master of Science degree in Developmental Psychology from Queen’s University and then returned to Brock to complete her PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience.
Christine’s father holds a Master’s degree in Psychology and taught the subject at the college level for 30 years and so she grew up with a familiarity with the field, but her ultimate decision to pursue a career in psychology was spurred by her introductory psychology professors Drs. Kathy Belicki and John Mitterer and Dr. Sid Segalowitz who taught her Developmental Neuroscience. Dr. Segalowitz later supervised Christine during her PhD research. They still keep in touch and have collaborated on further research.
Today, Christine’s research utilizes “developmental psychology and neuroscience methods to study individual differences in self-regulation and executive functioning during early childhood and adolescence.”
Notes Christine, “These are times of major development for these skills and times when extensive individual differences can be observed. I record event-related potentials (or ERPs) from participants’ scalps while they perform simple computer tasks, and I collect direct and indirect measures of their neurotransmitter levels, for example from genetic samples and eye blink rates.”
She then looks at how these neural measures can help explain some of the wide variation in how young children and adolescents behave. “For example, why one child has a hard time remaining seated during a time-out, and why another rarely receives a time-out; and why some adolescents consistently engage in dangerous behaviour, while others sail through adolescence without any trouble at all.”
Christine reminds that environmental factors (like peers, family, etc) can also influence both neural factors and behavioural outcomes. “The complex relationships among all of these variables are not overlooked in my research,” she says.
Currently, she is wrapping up a study on undergraduate students that examines adverse childhood experiences and how those experiences have impacted them at the psychological and neurophysiological level. She says the data is still being examined so it is too soon to draw conclusions, but she does say that there were a higher number of students than anticipated who reported adverse childhood experiences.
Christine’s collaborations with other psychology researchers have been many, among them Dr. Sid Segalowitz at Brock University, Dr. Karen Milligan at Ryerson University, and Dr. Jan Willem Gorter at McMaster. Her research has been made possible through funding from MSVU and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Explore Grants.
This semester Christine is teaching Cognitive Development and Developmental Neuroscience, the latter a new course that she created that explores the influences of brain maturation and the environment on psychological development and behaviour post-natally, including a discussion of the neurodevelopmental correlates of developmental and psychiatric disorders.