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Ivanco, Tammy L.

Associate Professor, Psychology


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Research Description

My lab is investigating one of the most interesting questions in neuroscience - "How does the brain learn and retain information for use throughout the lifetime?" We study what occurs during learning when the brain is working normally, but we are also interested in what happens when a brain is compromised or damaged. Some of the research we are doing is aimed at investigating developmental disorders and neurological disorders that affect young and old brains, such as those that result from stroke. My lab utilizes a number of techniques to investigate plasticity throughout the mammalian lifetime. These techniques come from the areas of behavioural neuroscience, molecular biology and neuroscience, electrophysiology, and quantitative and qualitative anatomy. I also expect to implement optical imaging techniques in the future.

Teaching Description

Some information on courses I have taught:

Introductory Psychology (17.120/PSYC 1200)

Although the vast majority of students in Introductory Psychology are first year students, many of them are not psychology majors. Many students are hoping to fill some sort of requirement, or are just taking the Introductory course to learn something about themselves. Thus, it is vital to provide information in a way that strongly indicates that psychology is important, but also an exciting area, while trying to maintain interest across an audience with wide areas of interests.

There are some major objectives that one must think about when teaching this type of course. The first revolves around the issue of maintaining interest. It is important to indicate clearly how Psychology has played a role in our society and how much of our daily behaviour is based on principles that we have come to understand as a result of Psychology. Assignments that draw attention to this fact are useful tools. The second objective is to present information as clearly and as relevantly as possible. To this end I use PowerPoint slides, video tapes and clips from Scientific American Frontiers, other video tapes from Audio Visual Services, in class examples, and I try to repeat things many times in different ways so that it is understood. Finally, although I try to discourage chatting in class, I have actively tried to get students involved in discussion, even if it takes us off on a tangent for a short time. This meets the final objective as it allows students to see how understanding Psychology does help them understand their behaviour, or that of others.

Fundamentals of Neuroscience (17.353) – entered into the calendar as Brain and Behaviour (17.236/PSYC2360) in the fall of 2005

This second year class has as its goal to encourage students to pursue Behavioural Neuroscience as an area of study within the Department of Psychology course selections. Behavioural Neuroscience helps us understand how we learn, how we develop, and how we can help people that suffer from sometimes deadly and destructive brain and behavioural disorders. Although this is not a clinical course, the course provides elementary clinical scenarios to help the students see the close links between course material and real-life problems that neuroscientists address. The objective of this course is to make the link that neurobiology is particularly relevant to those who are considering further study in psychology (especially Behavioural Neuroscience), social work, or other biologically or health-related areas.

Brain Plasticity (17.454/PSYC 4540)

Brain plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to change both its structure and function. Much evidence indicates that the ability of the brain to learn and adapt relies on the development of new connections and on the alteration of existing connections between cells. The content of this course is often very new to students within the Department of Psychology. The goal of this course is to introduce students to 1) the brain structures that plasticity is often studied in and 2) the general study of dynamic changes that are possible within the brain in response to experience.

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