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A Serendipitous Route to Success

Professor Michael Bagby discusses his world-renowned research on alexithymia during the Principal’s Research Award Lecture. (Photo by Ken Jones)

If not for serendipity, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) Professor R. Michael Bagby’s career may not have taken the path it did.

Bagby received the 2013 Principal’s Research Award on Thursday. November 28 at a special seminar and reception recognizing his accomplishments.

Years ago, while waiting for feedback on the first draft of his dissertation, Bagby was approached by Dr. Graeme Taylor of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital to work on a personality construct called alexithymia, in which people demonstrate limited emotional awareness, restricted imagination and an externally focused way of thinking. Since this was not his primary field of research, he almost turned down the opportunity.

Luckily, he reconsidered and the two went on to collaborate and developed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), which is now widely used to measure alexithymia and has been cited more than 3,000 times in scholarly literature; the scale has also been translated into 32 languages.

“Michael Bagby is not only one of UTSC’s finest professors,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president of research at UTSC, “he is also a distinguished researcher renowned internationally.”

At Thursday’s seminar, Bagby delivered a lively historical overview of the clinical and scientific investigations of alexithymia from its initial case studies to recent findings in neuroimaging. He also discussed the possible cultural applications of alexithymia, which he explored in a CIHR funded study by examining whether peoples from East Asian cultures process emotions differently.

Bagby is also currently analyzing alexithymia data on several hundreds of Canadian armed forces recruits.


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