International Brain Initiative: The Future of Large-Scale Collaboration

On October 12th, the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) and the International Brain Initiative (IBI) will be hosting a workshop to discuss the future of international neuroscience collaborations. Incoming Chair of the IBI Strategy Committee and CBRS Chair of the Steering Committee, Yves De Koninck, is set to participate as Canada’s IBI member representative. 

Representatives of brain initiatives from Europe, the U.S., Japan, China, Australia, Korea and Canada make up an IBI member panel that will convene to discuss the opportunities and challenges of international neuroscience collaboration. Noting the support provided by the IBI as a critical forum for networking and collaboration among the brain initiatives, panelists plan to advocate for increased connection between researchers, and point to the effectiveness of IBI working groups to initiate global actions in neuroethics, data policies, and the sharing of scientific resources. 

A key consensus is the need to strengthen relations between science and policy for closer integration of research evidence in decision making, and to bring diverse viewpoints into neuroscience research. As the IBI is growing to be a trusted source of thought leadership in global neuroscience, Canada, in particular, has the opportunity to lead with our efforts to engage non-researchers, people with lived experience, and Indigenous Peoples as we build a collective national vision for the future of neuroscience and mental health research that will benefit all Canadians.  

Read the recent publication in Lancet Neurology highlighting the STOA Panel Workshop and associated Editorial. 

Canadian Symposium for Computational Neuroscience

Neuroscience-AI is one of six transformative initiatives in the emerging Canadian strategy for brain research. 

CBRS is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a Q&A session at the first annual Canadian Symposium for Computation on October 27th, 2021 at 10am PT / 1pm ET titled “A Framework for Neuroscience-AI in the Canadian Brain Research Strategy.”

We welcome attendees of the conference to learn more about CBRS, our core initiatives, and plans moving forward from Executive Director Dr. Jennie Young and Dr. Karim Jerbi, lead of the Neuroscience-AI initiative.

We acknowledge Campus Alberta Neuroscience for their support in providing this opportunity for outreach.

If you’d like to read more about this event, please visit their webpage at: http://www.albertaneuro.ca/education/#CSCN

Registration is now live, you can register by clicking here.

 

CBRS Townhall – CAN-ACN Meeting 2021

The CBRS is pleased to announce we will be hosting a Townhall at this year’s CAN-ACN Meeting to engage with the wider neuroscience community.

Please join us at the CBRS Townhall on Wednesday August 25th at 12-12:30pm PDT / 3-3:30pm EDT if you are attending this year’s CAN-ACN Meeting!

We welcome this opportunity for Canadian neuroscientists attending the CAN-ACN meeting to learn more about the CBRS and the developing national strategy for brain research. Presented by CBRS Executive Director Dr. Jennie Young and Chair Dr. Yves De Koninck, we will be sharing our core initiatives and plans moving forward. This will be followed by a live survey and Q&A where Jennie and Yves will answer questions and solicit feedback about the CBRS.

We acknowledge the Canadian Association for Neuroscience for their support in providing this opportunity for outreach.


Thank you to the more than 100 attendees who came to our Townhall and and to those who shared your thoughts on how Canada distinguishes itself in our approach to neuroscience!

We appreciate your insights and input as we continue to shape a national strategy for brain research.

Please click here for more information on the Transformative Initiatives. 


 

 

Indigenous Initiatives Workshop

CBRS held an Indigenous Initiatives Workshop on June 28th, 2021.

Including the voices of Indigenous peoples is of paramount importance as we work to forge a unified national strategy for brain research that will benefit all Canadians.

In June, CBRS held its first Indigenous Initiatives Workshop with the aim to raise points of consideration and action for the Canadian Brain Research Strategy Indigenous Initiatives. The meeting, held virtually over Zoom, brought together more than 60 participants – Indigenous researchers in neuroscience and other fields, non-Indigenous researchers working with Indigenous populations, and those simply interested in learning and sharing Indigenous perspectives on brain and mental wellness.  

Workshop attendees included all career stages of academia from more than 25 institutions across Canada as well as non-profit and governmental agencies. In the first part of the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to share their background, lived experience, and research in a roundtable discussion. The second part of the workshop saw participants move into sharing circles led by members of the CBRS Indigenous Knowledge Holders Group (IKHG). A publication led by the IKHG members will be developed from this workshop with the goal of sharing the important knowledge gathered here with the global community. 

 

You can read the full meeting notes here.

Read our publication in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences here.

Dr. Jennie Z. Young appointed Executive Director for the Canadian Brain Research Strategy

Dr. Jennie Young

Executive summary:

The appointment of Dr. Jennie Z. Young as Executive Director of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy marks a new phase in the development of this initiative which aims to link brain research initiatives and projects, public and private funders, and patient organizations across Canada in a uniquely collaborative effort that will push the frontiers of brain science. Dr. Young will work to make brain research a national priority, for the benefit of all Canadians.

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy (CBRS) is pleased to mark a new phase of development in their initiative with the appointment of Dr. Jennie Z. Young as Executive Director. Dr. Young holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Alberta, and spent 14 years abroad at MIT in the laboratories of Nobel Laureate Susumu Tonegawa and Picower Institute Director Li-Huei Tsai, where she played a key role in ground-breaking discoveries in the fields of learning and memory and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Young accepted this position following her role at Brain Canada, where she managed Brain Canada’s largest funded projects and worked on building partnerships with national and international non-profit organizations, foundations, federal and provincial government, as well as industry to develop national research funding programs.

The CBRS is a pan-Canadian initiative uniting over 30 world-leading neuroscience and mental health institutes across Canada to date, with the objective of mobilizing efforts around a common vision: to position the advancement of knowledge about the brain as a national research priority.

“Dr. Jennie Young brings a passion for the exceptional quality and collaborative nature of neuroscience research in Canada. “ said Yves De Koninck, Chair of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy.  “In her new role as CBRS Executive Director, Dr. Young will lead the development and implementation of this network which will act as a hub by linking existing brain research initiatives and projects, public and private funders, and community and patient organizations across the country in a uniquely collaborative effort that will push the frontiers of brain science.”

 

“We are very happy to have recruited Dr. Jennie Young to our team”, said Judy Illes, Co-Chair of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy. “Her experience in both research and management make her uniquely skilled to lead the development of the CBRS to its full potential.”

The CBRS will consolidate existing collaborative relationships in the field to advance the leadership of the CBRS within the International Brain Initiative (IBI), which convenes seven of the world’s major brain research projects.

“The IBI is thrilled to learn of the appointment of Dr. Young as CBRS Executive Director.  CBRS continues to be an integral thought-leader and partner within the IBI.  This appointment marks an important milestone in solidifying the cohesion and collaborative networks these organizations seek to build,” said Agnes McMahon International Brain Initiative Program Director.

 

“Neurological Health Charities Canada is looking forward to bringing the voices of individuals with lived experience of brain conditions to the development of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy. Our coalition has long been a champion of the power of collaboration in science, and Dr. Young’s leadership will ensure the CBRS includes this important component,” said Deanna Groetzinger, Manager of Neurological Health Charities Canada.

 

“I am excited about the role that CBRS can play as a convener and enabler, to connect the neuroscience ecosystem across domains and bring out a unified voice that will elevate the visibility and importance of brain research.” said Dr. Young. “With our country’s established track record for excellence in brain and mental health research, as well as the rising burden of brain disorders, the scientific and health potential for each brain research discovery is immense. The collaborative spirit championed by CBRS has the potential to translate our common efforts into major advances in all sectors of society.”

The Canadian Brain Strategy featured in the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Annual Report

The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Annual Report includes a feature on Judy Illes and her work with the Canadian Brain Research Strategy team

When it comes to studying the brain, it’s essential to consider the many ethical questions that often arise. Neuroethics Canada is a research group that’s part of the DMCBH and led by Dr. Judy Illes. This year, her team has worked on several projects, including the exciting launch of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy with a $1.5 million CIHR grant.

Dr. Illes is co-leading the strategy with Professor Yves de Koninck and early career researcher Dr. Caroline Menard at the University of Laval. It already involves more than 30 teams from across the country. Canada’s participation is part of a larger International Brain Initiative, which brings together the world’s major brain research projects, all aimed at better understanding the human brain and discovering new treatments to address neurological and psychiatric disorders.

See the DMCBH Annual report here, and read the full feature on page 14

$1.5 million to develop a Canadian brain research strategy

A pan-Canadian team of researchers has secured a $1.5 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop a strategy to position the advancement of knowledge about the brain as a national research priority and support the creation of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy Network. This network will coordinate Canada’s participation in the International Brain Initiative, which brings together the world’s major brain research projects.

Neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide. The burden of neurological disorders has substantially increased over the last 25 years with the aging of the Canadian population. The coordinated efforts of brain researchers from across Canada through the Canadian Brain Research Strategy Network offers an unprecedented chance to reduce this burden and to improve the quality of life of Canadians.

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy Network is headed up by Dr. Yves De Koninck, a professor with Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and director of the CERVO Brain Research Centre, and Dr. Judy Illes, a professor at the University of British Columbia and director of Neuroethics Canada. The heads of 31 teams from Canada’s leading neuroscience institutes and research centres will join with them in developing the strategy. The coalition Neurological Health Charities Canada will bring the voice of Canadians affected by brain conditions to strategy development.

Several issues convinced the researchers of the urgency of developing a coordinated vision of brain research. “The first was the slow progress in the fight against brain disease,” explains De Koninck. “We’re still not able to cure or effectively treat disorders or illnesses like autism, Alzheimer’s, addiction, or depression. We believe that concerted action by neuroscience researchers will be a game-changer, just like it was for cardiovascular disease, where mortality rates have dropped 75% compared to 60 years ago.”

Another issue was the human and economic cost of brain disease. “In the course of their lives, one Canadian in three will be diagnosed with a brain disease or experience a brain injury. This often has a devastating impact on their quality of life and that of their families,” adds Deanna Groetzinger, manager of Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC), a coalition of organizations that represent people with brain diseases, disorders and injuries in Canada. “A 2016 study showed that neurological illnesses and mental health problems generated annual costs to the Canadian economy of some $61 billion.  In addition, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on stress and anxiety, particularly among health care workers and people living with brain conditions, shows just how important mental health is to our society.”

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy will coordinate Canada’s involvement in the International Brain Initiative. Like the Human Genome Project, which brought the entire scientific community together between 1988 and 2003 around the sequencing of the human genome, the International Brain Initiative will see thousands of scientists working toward a shared objective: understanding how the brain works and improving the treatments available to those suffering from brain-related illnesses. “Key aspects of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy in this regard are the ethical, legal, societal and cross-cultural importance of discoveries about the brain and their meaningful translation into practice” notes Illes. “The neuroethical piece has already grounded the formulation and execution of the Strategy.”

“Canada’s participation will focus on the brain’s plasticity, which underpins our ability to learn, remember, and adapt,” says De Koninck. “This should give us greater insight into how these processes can be disrupted and lead to brain disorders and pathologies. We also hope our collaborative, concerted approach to research will attract note. We want the Canadian way to set an example for other countries.”