Relax! We Have New Labs for That
By Sarah Cook ’03
Two new psychology laboratories, one devoted to sleep and one to sports
psychology, expand students’ opportunities for research.
A Dream Come True
The Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Laboratory
“I have been waiting for this opportunity for 10 years,” says
Assistant Professor of Psychology Pamela Thacher, the head of the department’s
new Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Laboratory. “It’s been
a dream of mine to be able to do this sort of research.”
Dreams aren’t the only things Thacher and her students will be
able to delve into in the new lab. “’Circadian’ means
the biological variations that take place within a 24-hour span,” says
Thacher, “and the lab will let us study sleep rhythm and performance
as part of that cycle.”
Psychology major Renee Ciulla ’03 of Weare, N.H., says, “There
is a lot of information on sleep out there, but if we can do our own
studies here at St. Lawrence we could be on the cutting edge.” Thacher
says she thinks it would be valuable if students were exposed to sleep
more in terms of health. Most students, she says, don’t get enough
sleep, and alcohol affects dream and R.E.M (deep) sleep, making it
even harder to get a good night’s sleep and feel rested in the
morning, she explains.
The Sports Psychology Laboratory
|In the new Sport Psychology Lab, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Artur Poczwardowski, standing, and Marcus Perman '03, work with
a Peak Achievement Trainer (PAT), a neurofeedback device that monitors
a person's ability to concentrate on a task.
As we walk into a room filled with navy blue reclining chairs, Assistant
Professor of Psychology Artur Poczwardowski tells me I’m looking
at part of St. Lawrence’s new Sport Psychology Laboratory. “There
are not many labs like this in the country,” he says. “We’re
devoted entirely to sport psychology, and to how psychology applies
to other areas of performance.” He points out computerized music
files for energizing and relaxation purposes, a sport psychology music
library, and the recliners, which are used for imagery exercises.
Poczwardowski says he favors testing sound theoretical principles in a practical
setting that emphasizes “ecological validity,” or real-life situations.
He describes an intervention study that used psychological skills to teach
pre-performance routines to the men’s basketball team and help them visualize
free throws. The players who had undergone the sport psychology program in
which they “saw and felt” themselves using proper form and making
their free throws showed improvement both in free throws and in confidence
compared to athletes who did not take part in the exercise, he explains.
Women’s head soccer coach Deb Biche adds, “As a coach, you are
always looking for the element that will give you an edge over your opponent.
The ‘mental edge’ is of the utmost importance in athletics and
at times the most difficult to maintain. The addition of a sports psychology
lab offers students, faculty, athletes, and coaches another resource in the
development of mental performance.”