Kirkpatrick-Grant_2666New Wheeling Jesuit University research could provide more insight into the way stress affects the body.

Dr. Michael A. Kirkpatrick, associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit, has been awarded a $20,000 Instrumentation Grant by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research.

“The equipment will allow state-of-the-art classroom demonstrations as well as student-faculty collaborative research into the ways in which stress affects our bodies and how relaxation and meditation bring about states of relaxation. With them, we can reveal the precise timing and relationships among bodily changes during physical exertion and athletic performance,” said Kirkpatrick.

In a news release, university officials said the objective of the grant program and the hope of the principal investigator is that the equipment will help students get excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics by experiencing their direct relevance to psychology and the experiences of our everyday lives.

The grant provides for the purchase of two advanced telemetric psychophysiological recording devices with laptop computers and associated peripherals. The equipment is manufactured by Great Lakes Neurotechnologies, a company that specializes in instrumentation for research, teaching, and clinical applications.

The devices are essentially polygraph machines that measure heart rate, skin conductance, respiration, brain waves, muscle tension and other activity, all of which respond to cognitive, perceptual and emotional events.

The measuring takes place through tiny surface electrodes that stick onto the skin. A small box worn on the belt — called a BioRadio — transmits the signals to a laptop computer which records, graphs and analyzes all of the data.

Unlike older polygraphs, these new devices do not restrict participants to a chair beside a massive array of electronics.

“The new equipment will allow us to monitor physiological activity while people perform routine tasks or participate in laboratory protocols,” said Kirkpatrick.

“Dr. Kirkpatrick’s research and reputation will enhance our undergraduate’s additional opportunities for inquiry. I congratulate Michael on this award and look forward to the new and exciting research he and his students will produce here at Wheeling Jesuit,” said Rev. James Fleming, WJU president.

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