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Unraveling the Mysteries of Mind and Behaviour

Scientific mysteries are everywhere around us but the most complex of them lies much closer – inside the human mind. Understanding how the brain works, how it gives rise to the mind, and why it makes us do the things we do is the prime goal of Psychology. Meet Dr Priyanka Kacker, Assistant Professor, Institute of Behavioural Science (IBS), Gujarat Forensic Sciences University (GFSU), Gandhinagar, who has done extensive research in areas like human development, clinical, social behaviour and cognitive processes. She has been awarded with EET-CRS Honourable Mention Academic Achievement Award 2017 for her contribution in the field of psychological research.

Dr Priyanka Kacker - EET-CRS Award ceremony
Dr Priyanka Kacker honoured with EET-CRS Academic Achievement Award, Sept 2017

Dr Priyanka always wanted to get into medical field since her childhood but destiny had its own plans and she couldn’t get a medical seat. She was a science student so she had only BSc option open, but she was not willing to do BSc either. As she was always interested in working with patients, her mother suggested her to take up Psychology because it was related to her interest.

The subject was part of Arts stream so she took admission in B.A. with Psychology as her Major subject. She found the subject interesting and scored highest marks in all the three years for which she received Gold and Silver medals and got scholarship by the University for higher studies. She took admission in the M.S. University (MSU), Dept. of Psychology, Baroda and as per her interest to work with patients, she took clinical psychology as her area of specialization.

Dr Priyanka Kacker - Forensic Psychology Day
Dr Priyanka Kacker organizing the Forensic Psychology Day at Gujarat Forensic Science University

After studying clinical psychology, she wanted to pursue Ph.D. in application of hypnosis as she found the area interesting. At that time, MSU was offering one year diploma course in hypnosis which she completed with distinction and then applied it in her Ph.D. During her research, she worked as teaching assistant at MSU and taught post graduate students of psychology. After completing her Ph.D. in 2013, she got a chance to work as Assistant Professor at Institute of Behavioural Science, GFSU, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Learning and practicing hypnosis was also a challenge so I started hypnosis on myself first to understand it better. Practicing hypnosis actually boosted my self-confidence and improved my personality. I used Hypnosis to mold myself and then used it on others.
Dr Priyanka Kacker

The first challenge she faced in teaching at GFSU was that since she was not RCI licensed Clinical Psychologist, she was not allowed to teach Clinical Psychology. She feels it was weird because RCI license is needed for submitting test reports and not for teaching. But that eventually worked out in her favour as she got into Neuropsychology and Forensic Psychology field. She got into learning Electrophysiological instruments like EEG, ERP, NFB and BFT and also Forensic Psychological Investigation Techniques like BEOS and Polygraph. This interest lead her to many new research interests and research work.

It was challenging to change my field from clinical to neuro-forensic. Learning new techniques and teaching it simultaneously was the most difficult task. During the same time, unfortunately, my mother was diagnosed with last stage cancer. It was a difficult time to balance between personal and professional commitments simultaneously.
Dr Priyanka Kacker

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Dr Priyanka Kacker - BEOS training to CBI
Dr Priyanka Kacker – BEOS training to CBI
Dr Priyanka Kacker - Forensic Psychology Lecture
Dr Priyanka Kacker – Delivering a Forensic Psychology Lecture
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Research focus areas of Dr Priyanka Kacker 

She has published over 28 papers in various journals on Neuropsychology, Forensic psychology, Clinical psychology and Hypnotherapy. She has conducted multiple conferences, workshops and presented papers at conferences across India.

Outcome of Major researches

Clinical Psychology – Clinical Hypnotherapy has positive impact of HIV+ people with and without Dermatitis on their psychosocial health like Subjective well being, Subjective vitality, Confidence, Anxiety, Mental Health locus of control, Adjustment skills, coping skills, dermatological symptoms etc.

Education Psychology –  There was no significant difference between Annual systems Vs. Credit Structure System. In fact the quality of education has decreased because in Credit system the duration to teach stipulated syllabus is less due to which teachers find it difficult to complete the syllabus and are not able to get into depth. Also there is a sense of dissatisfaction in the students because of this.

Neuropsychology – Emotions are integral part of action initiation. For a person to create an experience, emotions plays a vital role. Also, when a person experiences emotion there is overall activation in brain.

Forensic Psychology – BEOS is used for forensic investigation mostly for murder cases and animal poaching but it can be used in cases like child sexual abuse, domestic violence as well as in Neuro- Clinical Applications like Dementia, Schizophrenia, dissociative disorders etc.

Clinical Hypnotherapy – It can be used in terminally ill patients like cancer, AIDS to improve their well being, reduce pain and anxiety. Also Forensic hypnosis has wide application in forensic set-up.

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Dr Priyanka Kacker - NAOP 2017 - 14 research presentations by students and One Best Paper by her on BEOS
Dr Priyanka Kacker at NAOP 2017 – 14 research presentations were made by her students and she also won Best Paper award on BEOS
Dr Priyanka Kacker - Research on Economically deprived rural kids
Dr Priyanka Kacker – Research on Economically deprived rural kids
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Despite our best attempts to know ourselves, the truth is that we often know surprisingly little about our own minds. Researchers like Dr Priyanka Kacker are helping us in unraveling its mysteries to give valuable insights into why it makes us do the things we do. Her drive to learn more is taking her forward and has helped her to overcome the challenges of her life.

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