Meet MSURJ: Sebastian


Hello MSURJ enthusiasts! My name is Sebastian Andric and I am a Junior Editor on

the MSURJ team. I am currently a first year undergraduate student hoping to get

involved with the research community here at McGill. Although I’m only starting out

my post-secondary academic career, I am interested in pursuing research in either

neuroscience or genetic engineering. Aside from reading and editing research papers,

my interests include traveling, playing piano, listening to music, especially jazz and

hip-hop, and gaming.  I’m looking forward to working with MSURJ and I hope you

all pick up a copy!



(image: wikimedia commons)

What a new form of hockey can contribute to skill development for our national sport

Joshua Shapiro

Understanding how talent is developed can help us improve in everything that we do, and enable us to do so faster as well. As Canadians, we are always looking for ways to better our skills in our national sport, hockey. To answer this enduring question, we should not only consider playing more hockey itself, but also investigate playing a different sport entirely. This article suggests that the sport floorball[1] can act as deep practice for hockey, and can help our country produce more elite hockey players.

Floorball, a relatively new sport, was developed in Sweden in the 1970s and has become popular in Scandinavia, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, among other European countries. It is a specific variation of floor hockey, played in a gym, with lightweight plastic balls and relatively short sticks. The fact that it is played indoors allows the sport to be played year-round, similar to futsal, the adapted version of soccer discussed by Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code. Due to their various similarities, I suggest that floorball, like futsal, “places players inside the deep practice zone, making and correcting errors, constantly generating solutions to vivid problems”.

Floorball, again like futsal, is played in a small gym. This smaller playing surface results in more opportunities to touch the ball. Futsal allows players to touch the ball 600 percent more often than in soccer, and it would not be unreasonable to postulate that there would be a similar increase in the amount of puck-handling by ice hockey players. This gives each player the ability to repeat actions, as is necessary for deep practice. The smaller area also means that there is less space for a player to move, which has two main effects: Firstly, when handling the ball, if a player is not absolutely in control, the ball can easily be taken away. Thus, the little space you have requires the refinement of stick-handling skills, which improves control. Secondly, it becomes particularly necessary to find space on the court to ‘get open’, and necessitates sharper passing.

The equipment differences also allow for deeper practice. The lighter stick, which weighs less than 350 grams, allows for quicker hand motions, improving reaction time. Shorter sticks also mean that the player is closer to the ground, allowing them greater control of the ball[2]. More importantly, perhaps, is the reduced weight of the ball itself, allowing for enhanced responsiveness to touch. Interestingly, the futsal ball was made heavier for this purpose, but in this case, a lighter ball is more sensitive to the player’s touch. The ball also has dimples like a golf ball, and even holes, to make it more aerodynamic; the ball flies faster than a puck can in ice hockey. Once again, increased speed increases the coordination required on the parts of players defending, goalies attempting to catch shots, and forwards redirecting shots at the net. Moves (dekes) can be easily created in floorball, like futsal; greater control of the ball allows for more manoeuvrability and creativity, which can then be transferred to the hockey rink. One of the recommendations in The Talent Code, while discussing his three rules of deep practice, was to “Slow it Down”. There are dekes that need to be practiced in slow motion in order to be mastered, which is sometimes more easily achieved on a floorball court, due to the fast pace at which you glide on ice. Most importantly, as a forward, every touch put on the ball needs to be more fine-tuned, hence similar to futsal, floorball “demands and rewards more precise handling”.

As one would expect, countries where floorball is played have become “talent hotbeds” (similar to Brazil for soccer). Sweden, where floorball is most popular (and who have won the last two World Floorball Championships), has produced many National Hockey League (NHL) stars. The number of young players drafted to the NHL from Sweden has been steadily increasing, and floorball’s training effects on goalies is especially evident. Starting at the turn of the century, the number of Swedish and Finnish goalies has markedly increased[3], and many NHL goalies, among the best in the world, credit floorball in improving agility and reaction time[4]. In fact, many of floorball’s greatest (and certainly most prominent) advocates are former professional hockey players, such as ex-superstar NHLer Peter Forsberg. Famous Toronto Maple Leaf of the 1970s and 1980s, Borje Salming, has actually created a line of equipment. All of the above evidence suggests that floorball should be incorporated into off-ice training in Canada.

Pavel Barber, a hockey skill-developer and strong advocate of floorball, recently interviewed Daniel Coyle about his book on skill development in sports. Barber asked whether there would be merit to floorball in the development of ice hockey players (noting its similarities to futsal). Coyle replied: “Absolutely, makes perfect sense, because think about what your brain is doing in those positions, it’s having to read and react, it’s trying to create that fine edge, to be able to feel in your fingers what’s going on with the puck, and be able to control it”. He noted that in every sport, the pattern should hold: “shrink the space, force the reaction”.

In his book, Coyle describes futsal as “played inside a phone booth and dosed with amphetamines”, and I believe floorball could be described the exact same way. It also produces “an intricate series of quick, controlled passes, and nonstop end-to-end action”. Coyle points out that the smaller space requires that players look for angles, work “quick combinations with other players”, and constantly look for free space. Players are forced to recognize and make plays much quicker, and execute many more touches under constant pressure. All of the above can be said for floorball as well. Floorball puts players on the edge of their ability, (failing and correcting) in order to learn and build skills. Perhaps importantly, floorball is primarily practice in Canada, not nearly as competitive as other professional sports. This makes players feel comfortable taking risks and experimenting, an essential stage of training. Coyle concludes his interview with Pavel Barber by stating “it makes absolutely perfect sense to me that that would be a wonderful way to spend time in the deep practice zone”.

In conclusion, we should seek to develop floorball in Canada, to enable Canadians to reach their highest potential at our nation’s favourite pastime. Before the last Olympics, due to insurance risks, the Canadian men’s Olympic ice hockey team was forced to run a ball hockey practice (not on the ice). While the players largely treated the activity as a joke, the idea had merit, and was perhaps a step in the right direction. I recommend instituting floorball as a dry-land training for junior and professional hockey teams, and promoting the sport among Canadian youth, further developing leagues, camps, and other programs. This sport has the potential to help further the growth of Canadian hockey.

[1] Also commonly known as unihockey, salibandy, and innebandy
[2] This tactic is used in hockey as well; the shorter the stick, the more controlled stick handling
[4] Accomplished Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist played floorball in his development
(image: ullaj)

Meet MSURJ: Meng

Hello, hello! I’m Meng, one of the co-Editors-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 school year. I am a graduating pharmacology student minoring in economics.

In my free time, I love anything that involves being active, eating and taking Instagram pictures of food. A year ago, I started working at a research lab that focuses on the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s Disease and since then, it’s been quite a wild ride. I’ve learned through a summer submerged in research that there is no end to scientific learning, and that the amount of knowledge gained is directly proportional to self motivation, hard work and a lot of introspection—asking yourself why you are doing something, for instance.

Therefore, this school year, I’ve challenged myself to work as much as a graduate student and to produce as much, if not more data than the graduate students in my laboratory. So far, it has not been an easy journey, but I am anxious to see what a year of hard work will lead to. Ariana, the rest of the MSURJ team, and I have worked extremely hard over the whole summer to completely revamp ourselves, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds!

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Deception

Truth about lies, the highest governing process

Ji Yun Shin

We have probably encountered many troubling scenarios in life where we have felt the urge to lie. Afterwards, we might be so afraid to disclose our lies that we experience enormous guilt. On the other hand, however, intentional lying can sometimes be beneficial in allowing us to attain our goals with less effort. In these particular cases, we are able to justify lying, and thus free ourselves from any discomfort that accompanies mistruth.

Generally, people exhibit great interest in learning various tricks to detect lies in social settings, as evidenced by the countless articles and books available that discuss the relationship between social cues and deception.. However, these resources do not fully describe the brain mechanisms that are involved in the fabrication of lies. In fact, studies have shown that the brain requires higher cognitive function when involved in deception than in truth.

In the U.S. and Indian markets, the commercial lie detector is being widely advertised without much scientific basis. While often cited in some legal cases, lie detector evidence is outright refused in others because it can be unreliable. It is hard to overcome the limitations of lie detection technology. While the efficacy of the lie detector is an often heated, controversial debate in the field of neuroscience, recent studies have been reporting very amusing results in which patterns of brain activity have been correlated with deception.

In the presence of new imaging technology, scientists have come to reconstruct the definition of deception. DePaulo et al. described deception as a deliberate attempt to mislead others through literal truths. A review done by Spence et al. also introduced perspectives borne from fMRI techniques that are being used to measure deception in the brain, demonstrating the importance of mistruth to human social interactions. According to this study, the delivery of untruthful information is considered to be harmless in many social circumstances, acting as a foundation for humans to achieve various purposes. The study also showed that participating in deception is ideal for a child at the age of 3 or 4, so that they may better learn self-control. In more detail, learning self-control at an early age is a prosperous endeavor; Spence et al. claim romantic relationships can be facilitated by deception. As a result, some social interaction disorders may be associated with a lack of this essential skill. Although Spence et al. addresses the danger of habitual lying, they emphasize that when used in moderation, deception is key to human interaction in a social context.

It has also been reported that the theory of mind is absolutely necessary for deliberate deception. In other words, one must have an understanding of the intentions of another in order to deceive others effectively. Consequently, it is assumed that if a person lies despite lacking a thorough theory of mind, it can be attributed to a cognitive impairment. The formulation of lies is viewed as an additional cognitive process that requires prefrontal executive systems. Deception, which involves withholding information, requires ‘inhibition’. According to Ford’s study in 1995, the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is involved in the process. Patients with orbitofrontal lesions showed a tendency to refrain from lying, in that they could not successfully refrain from revealing truthful responses at inappropriate times. Also, in non-human primates with lesions in this brain area, deficits in conditional responses were observed. Another area that is also known to be involved in response inhibition (Spence et al.) is the ventral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). Furthermore, increased activity in the PFC and anterior cingulate gyrus areas, which are mostly known to be responsible for executive functions such as decision making, was observed when participants were made to lie, suggesting that deception was incorporated in the executive process. Although in no way singularly conclusive, and having its own flaws in experimental design (For instance, only having, ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as possible responses), overall, this study revealed important information about the physiology of deception through modern imaging techniques.

Finally, recent improvements in the quality of fMRI studies have allowed us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of deception in human cognition. We suppress truthful information when we choose to deceive others for social benefit or otherwise, suggesting higher response inhibition. When constructing any social contextual responses, we must consider our intentions through the lens of our human cognition.

DePaulo, B. M., Lindsay, J. J., Malone, B. E., Muhlenbruck, L., Charlton, K., & Cooper, H.(2003). Cues to deception. Psychological bulletin, 129(1), 74.
Spence, S. A., Hunter, M. D., Farrow, T. F., Green, R. D., Leung, D. H., Hughes, C. J., &Ganesan, V. (2004). A cognitive neurobiological account of deception: evidence fromfunctional neuroimaging. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 359(1451), 1755-1762.
Ford, C. V., & Price, J. S. (1996). Lies!, lies!!, lies!!!: The psychology of deceit (p. 118).Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

We’ve been featured!

MSURJ, currently in its 11th year of print, was recently featured by the McGill Tribune as one of the best scientific publications at McGill, with a lovely segment written by Daniel Galef. At this time of the year while all of us here are hard at work putting together our newest volume, this was both a pleasant surprise and an honour.

Volume 11 of MSURJ will be published in March, 2016.

Until then, we, the MSURJ team, would like to thank our readers and contributors for their continued support.

(image: Huffington Post)

Meet MSURJ: Alex

2015-10-19 12.50.08


Hello everyone!

I’m a U2 Computer Science student, and have recently joined MSURJ as an editor. I have research experience in medicine and stem cell therapy, but have more recently developed research interests in computer vision, computer graphics, and human-computer interaction. I am currently looking forward to be performing research with the faculty at the Centre for Intelligent Machines, and also have a number of side projects that I work on at hackathons, as well as on my own time.

Research is one of the only areas where you aren’t working to achieve what someone accomplished yesterday, but rather to discover something new. Being at the front lines of pursuing knowledge and gaining an appreciation of others’ work, is my main inspiration to do research, as well as was the main reason why I chose to join MSURJ this year.
On my own time, I enjoy building on my own programming side projects, watching tv shows, browsing reddit, playing with dogs, and exploring new restaurants. I like travelling around the world and have had the privilege of living in many countries throughout my life so far— though, if I had to call one place my home, it would be Malaysia.

To all science students: it’s never too early or too late to start making an impact! Check out past copies of the journal and submit to us yourself if you think your research deserves to be published!


Meet MSURJ: Aditya

AdityaMohanProfilePicAditya Mohan is a youth leader in STEM from Ottawa, Ontario who has always been keenly interested in science and the potential it holds to make a difference in the world. Over the years, Aditya has participated, and been awarded, in numerous scientific competitions with his work on biofuels, HIV, and cancer research.

In 2012, to help mitigate the issue of costs, Aditya designed a novel Algal Biofuel extraction process that produced industry-grade biofuel at a fraction of its current cost.

Soon after, Aditya began working at a research lab to study the cellular interactions found in chronic diseases such as HIV. His research in molecular immunology allowed him to develop a novel HIV treatment to stimulate the production of anti-viral CD8+ T Cells. This project won many national and regional awards, including the prestigious Canadian Manning Innovation Award.

Aditya’s latest project involves the bioengineering of the common cold virus for applications in cancer treatment. His virus has worked very well in on multiple cancers and holds a lot of potential moving forward. His project has earned him many international and national accolades, including the 1st place award at the International Science and Engineering Fair and the title of National BioGENEius of Canada.

Aside from science, Aditya also pursues a wide array of extracurricular activities, and has competed in and won multiple national competitions for the visual arts and creative writing. He is also an avid basketball player.