Research that Focuses on Behaviour in Adolescence Receives Funding

Dr. Michelle Jetha, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Cape Breton University, has been awarded $356,095 in funding for research which will create significant progress in understanding how teens cope with their emotional well-being and mental health. The funding, which comes from the  Canadian Foundation of Innovation, the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust, and Cape Breton University will help pay for equipment and renovations for the new Developmental Social Neuroscience Laboratory.

Dr. Jetha’s research explores the origins of maladaptive internalizing and externalizing behaviours, such as anxiety and aggression or hyperactivity. The research puts a specific focus on neurological factors or bio-markers that may be contributing to this kind of behavior in developing teens.

“This research is an essential step towards understanding the emotional life of developing youth, which is critical for the development of strategies for prevention and treatment of maladaptive behaviour,” says Dr. Jetha.

The tools needed for this research are electroencephalographic (EEG) and electrocardiographic (ECG) equipment which will be used to measure brain and heart-rate activity while teens are engaging in challenging laboratory-based tasks that require attention and self-regulation for maximal performance. Advancements in technology have been emerging in recent years and has led to new understanding of adolescent brain development, with important implications for youth policies and adolescent mental health. The research that Dr. Jetha will be conducting will allow the CBU research community to take part in this advancement.

“The work being led by researchers at CBU have implications that reach far beyond the walls of our campus. The important work that Dr. Jetha is leading demonstrates the type of impact our researchers can have on society and shows the calibre of work that undergraduate students have an opportunity to participate in,” says Dr. Tanya Brann-Barrett, Dean Research, Teaching and Graduate Studies.

This research will improve the public’s understanding of adolescent brain development, vulnerability and resilience to mental disorder. It is relevant to educators, youth policy workers, and those who work in the criminal justice system. It will serve to inform treatment and prevention strategies for youth struggling in these settings.