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Canadian Institutes of Health Research invests in new brain health research at Baycrest

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Credit: Baycrest Health Sciences

Baycrest Health Sciences will pursue new avenues in brain health research thanks to support from Canada's health research investment agency.

Two scientists at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) secured more than $1.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) during the recent Project Grant competition. Funds are awarded to studies offering the greatest potential to advance health research, healthcare, health systems and health outcomes.

This funding supports Baycrest scientists whose work focuses on understanding how the brain's ability to process information changes during aging, which will help detect neurodegenerative diseases earlier and create targeted treatments.

Cannabis and the brain's development:

Dr. Tomáš Paus, RRI senior scientist and the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair and Professor of Population Neuroscience at the University of Toronto, was awarded more than $1.2 million over five years to explore how the brain development, mental health and cognitive abilities of young adults may be affected by cannabis use during youth.

In 2015, the study's first phase found that cannabis use may influence the brain development of male teens who have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia. In collaboration with researchers at SickKids Hospital, CAMH, the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, McGill University and the University of Calgary, researchers will launch the next phase by comparing the brain scans of 1,000 young adults who previously participated as teens.

"As the Canadian government moves towards legalizing cannabis, our study will inform the public about whether early cannabis use changes the trajectory of a person's brain health between their teens and young adulthood," says Dr. Paus, a pioneer in the field of population neuroscience and professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

Funding from the CIHR will support the salaries of research staff, participants and the cost of brain scans. Additional funding could help researchers incorporate a smartphone app into the study and provide detailed, real-time insight into the behaviour of research participants.

Improving memory assessments:

Dr. Bradley Buchsbaum, RRI scientist and psychology professor at the University of Toronto, will receive more than $315,000 over three years for work that could help develop targeted treatments for incurable neurodegenerative diseases.

By using high-resolution neuroimaging, Dr. Buchsbaum hopes to discover a unique brain signature when young adults remember a detailed memory and compare how this changes in older adults. This detailed memory recall becomes more difficult during aging and this work could be used to flag cognitive impairments earlier and measure the effectiveness of drug therapies and interventions.

"We're shining a light on how the brain is working in real time, which could help diagnose how well a person's memory system is functioning, even if they don't notice any memory changes as they grow older," says Dr. Buchsbaum.

His work takes a uniquely broad approach in studying the brain's communication between its different regions.

Additional funding towards Dr. Buchsbaum's research could support the development of a neuroimaging-based assessment to diagnose memory problems in older adults earlier.

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About Baycrest Health Sciences

Baycrest Health Sciences is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals and one of the world's top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute. Baycrest is home to the federally and provincially-funded Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector, and is the developer of Cogniciti – a free online memory assessment for Canadians 40+ who are concerned about their memory. Founded in 1918 as the Jewish Home for Aged, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information please visit: http://www.baycrest.org

About Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute

The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment, and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.

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Jonathan MacIndoe
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416-785-2500 x6579
@Baycrest

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http://www.baycrest.org/research-news/canadian-institutes-of-health-research-invests-in-new-brain-health-research-at-baycrest/

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