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$1.85 million for next-gen research into sleep disorders, addiction and behaviour modification

Concordia lands new federal funding for medical investigations and interventions
May 29, 2018
Roisin O'Connor received $432,225 in funding from the CIHR to develop a culture-specific model of resilience against substance use among Canada's on-reserve Indigenous youth. | Photo by Concordia University

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have announced support for new projects at Concordia.

Three professors in the Faculty of Arts and Science — Thanh Dang-Vu, Mihaela Iordanova and Roisin O’Connor — received a combined total of $1.85 million dollars through the federal funding agency’s Project Grant Program.

“Research generated by these faculty members and their teams will strengthen Concordia’s growing reputation for excellence and leadership in health research by showcasing deeply innovative approaches to treatments and interventions,” says Christophe Guy, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies.

Sleep disorders and the brain

A neurologist and associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science, Dang-Vu will receive $742,050 to study brain abnormalities in central disorders of hypersomnolence.

This group of neurological disorders affects our control over sleep and wakefulness, leading patients to feel excessively sleepy during the day, which heavily impairs their ability to concentrate, work and socialize. Amongs these disorders of hypersomnolence, the five-year study will particularly investigate idiopathic hypersomnia — a sleep disorder in which longer periods of sleep do not refresh an individual suffering from the disorder.

Dang-Vu is also the Concordia University Research Chair in Sleep, Neuroimaging and Cognitive Health, a member of the PERFORM Centre and the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, and the associate director for clinical research at CRIUGM. Using state-of-the-art brain imaging methods, he aims to identify brain regions and networks affected by these conditions.

Through this research, he and his team hope to contribute to the development of new interventions to treat patients with these disabling disorders.

Curb the habit — permanently

Iordanova, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience, will receive $677,025 over five years.

Her research project will look at the neural circuity involved in the modification of unwanted behaviour, specifically behaviour related to sugary treats. Her goal is to uncover ways that will reduce such habits permanently. A member of the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, Iordanova will work with her team to apply a combination of two behaviour modification protocols — overexpectation and extinction.

Overexpectation and extinction are essentially two sides of the same coin. In overexpectation, behaviour is modified by manipulating one’s expectations, whereas in extinction this is done by manipulating – or omitting – the delivery of the outcome that serves to reinforce the unwanted behaviour. Iordanova will use both paradigms to understand how the brain can alter behavioural patterns in a wholistic task-independent manner.

Once armed with how behaviour can be altered using these paradigms, Iordanova and her team will share new ways to mitigate potentially bad behaviours.

Substance use in Indigenous youth

O'Connor, an associate professor of psychology and member of the Centre for Clinical Research in Health, will receive $432,225 in funding from the CIHR. 

Her research aims to develop a culture-specific model of resilience against substance use among Canada’s on-reserve Indigenous youth. Like Dang-Vu and Iordanova, O'Connor’s funding will also be spread over five years.

She and her team will implement what they call a “two-eyed seeing approach,” in which both Indigenous and Western perspectives are used to identify factors that protect Indigenous youth from substance use. O’Connor’s research will also include an empirical school-based study where potential predictors of substance use will be assessed as adolescents progress through secondary school.

Results from the study will be recorded over a three-year period. O’Connor and her team will then disseminate their findings to Indigenous communities using traditional storytelling methods.

Health research focus groups

Work on Concordia’s health institute continues to progress with a mapping of the university’s health research capacity, as well as small-group meetings. In the months to come, health researchers from varying disciplines across the university will be invited to attend focus groups as the university works to advance its health-research mandate. 


Find out more about Research at Concordia.

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