In 2012, the Department of Psychology at Ryerson University founded The Institute for Stress and Wellbeing Research. The Institute is jointly funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and Ryerson University. The Institute brings together a leading edge team of international researchers, clinicians, and trainees from Canada, USA, UK, and China with key skill sets in the biological, cognitive-behavioural, and subjective aspects of stress. Several novel features define the Institute. First, our international, multidisciplinary team is pursuing science that encompasses development from fetal development through old age. Second, the Institute infrastructure incorporates multiple capabilities (from brain oxygenation, to hormones, to respiration), permitting the simultaneous study of several stress systems. Third, the Institute studies healthy populations side by side with vulnerable populations, allowing for innovative clinical trials. Fourth, the Institute turns theory into practice by providing clinical interventions aimed at supporting individuals and their families. Collectively, the goal is to understand the multiple facets of stress in order to minimize its negative aspects and maximize its positive implications.
The Institute has equipment that is capable of measuring and analyzing electrical and hemodynamic brain activity (EEG and fNIR, respectively), hormonal assays, psychophysiology (e.g., electromyogram, respiratory rate and effort, electrocardiogram, pulse, electrodermal activity and blood pressure) as well as face/emotion capture and eye tracking. In addition, the facility is equipped with sophisticated audio and visual recording equipment as well as two head mounted virtual reality systems integrated with a software suite for stress, addiction and phobia related scenarios. At the backbone of the Stress Institute’s infrastructure are several data analysis servers running across Windows, OSX and Linux platforms. These servers are streamlined with a 24TB networked storage server. Expert staff and highly trained research personnel are available to operate and maintain the equipment.
The Harry Rosen Research Commons is a large meeting room and collaborative workspace central to the Institute for Stress and Wellbeing Research. This space was made possible through a generous donation from Mr. Harry Rosen. The Harry Rosen Commons is setup as a research hub; all of the Stress Institute testing rooms and labs connect through this space, which creates a highly collaborative research environment. Part of the donation by Mr. Rosen was used to create several research grants to support stress-related research in the Institute.
Advantages of Technology and Location
State of the art technology makes possible the widest range of tools for measuring stress, including: genotyping, hormone analysis, measurement of electrical activity in the brain, measurement of oxygen distribution in the brain, and “autonomic” function (such as heart rate, respiration rate, pupil dilation)—all finely calibrated in relation to health status and conditions in the environment. This technology, along with the breadth of purpose and diverse expertise contributed by an international team, poise the Institute for leading edge discovery.
With its advantageous location in downtown Toronto’s “Discovery District,” home to seven world renowned hospitals and more than 30 specialized medical and sciences research centres, the Institute is uniquely positioned to create synergistic research collaborations that will advance knowledge and practical applications in the areas of stress, wellbeing, intervention, and policy. Ultimately, the Institute for Stress and Wellbeing Research aims to promote Canadians’ quality of life, health, and prosperity.