Event Saturday to showcase UWindsor research

Bryanna GravesBryanna Graves, a master's student of psychology, is examining a test which may help to assess a person’s executive functions.

Some people can expertly juggle numerous tasks with ease while others struggle to focus on the job at hand. A University of Windsor psychology student is examining a test which may help to determine a person’s executive functions and why some people excel with these activities and others do not.

“Executive function is sort of an umbrella term that refers to the skills you need to complete longer-term goals,” explained Bryanna Graves.

The second-year master’s candidate said these functions can determine a person’s ability to plan, focus, remember instructions and multitask. But it’s the method in which a person’s executive skills are evaluated that has piqued Graves’ interest.

The 29-year-old is researching the utility of a new test called the Functional Assessment of Verbal Reasoning and Executive Strategies. Graves said the new test, developed by a speech-language pathologist, should in theory be an effective tool for evaluating executive function.

“The current tests being used have little to no predictive validity in actually telling us how these people are doing in their daily lives,” she said. “So that’s where my research comes in.”

Determining a person’s executive function can help a psychologist determine the appropriate treatment for a person with mental and cognitive disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder or autism.

“People who are struggling to manage their lives or who have mental health concerns need recommendations to make improvements in their life,” Graves said. “If the assessments aren’t accurate then the conclusions we are making and the resources we are suggesting aren’t going to be helpful.”

Her study requires volunteer subjects between the ages of 18 and 25 years, fluent in English and vision-abled. Those interested in participating can e-mail Graves at graves5@uwindsor.ca.

Graves will join about 20 other students to discuss their work with members of the public Saturday at Devonshire Mall, 3100 Howard Avenue. The Research Showcase will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the hallway outside the Bay store.

“There’s so much research going on at universities across all departments and often the only ones who know about it are the researchers,” Graves said.

“The research we’re doing is to help people, broaden our knowledge and make the world a more functional place. So this showcase is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to see what’s going on here at the University of Windsor.”