A second year clinical psychology student from Acadia has been awarded a Bright Red Student Research Award offered exclusively by the Nova Scotia chapter of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
Laura Smith, originally from Cole Harbour, NS, is part of a research team at Acadia led by Dr. Anne Sophie Champod and she is conducting research into how children’s brains respond to prism adaptation (PA) therapy. PA is an experimental treatment used with stroke patients with a condition called spatial neglect whereby they cannot identify or react to stimuli on the left-side of their vision. She received her award at a ceremony in Halifax on November 20, 2018.
“I feel quite honoured to have received this award, and am grateful that it will allow me to continue with my research,” says Laura. “I think one of the great things about receiving this award is that it spreads the word to individuals in the community that there are many research areas that need further investigation. For instance, before starting this project, I was unaware that individuals with spatial neglect have difficulties accessing rehabilitation treatments as they cannot drive themselves to the appointment.”
Smith earned her undergraduate degree at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax where she majored in psychology. She unexpectedly became interested neuroscience when exposed to using electroencephalographic (EEG) methods and data to study neuromechanisms of the brain, and how these neuromechanisms could influence various aspects of behavior.
“My supervisor (Dr. Derek Fisher) at MSVU connected me with Dr. Champod as I had an interest in understanding issues associated with accessing both physical and mental health care,” says Laura. “We are looking at a type of PA therapy that will potentially be able to be used from home as a rehabilitation option for both adults and children who are suffering from spatial neglect. The first step will be testing healthy children to determine how this treatment affects their brain and to evaluate whether this may be a useful option for treating spatial neglect while improving on the current procedure.
“I believe that the Heart & Stroke Foundation was interested in this particular project as it is directly related to one of their main goals which is to assist in the rehabilitation of stroke patients,” she says. “Additionally, my study is looking specifically at a treatment that can help children who have spatial neglect resulting from strokes which is an area that is under-researched. Receiving this award helps to raise the profile of all under-researched areas and lets the community know that work is being done regardless of where an issue appears on the research radar.”
“Laura is very deserving of this award,” says Dr. Champod. “Her thesis project which is central to my research program is quite complex and she has been fully embracing this challenge with passion and commitment. This award will allow her to focus on her research that has important implications for stroke patients and the treatment of a condition that is linked with poor clinical outcomes. It is fantastic to see the Heart & Stroke Foundation recognize the work of our excellent students at Acadia.”