Read the CBRS submission to the House of Commons Finance committee pre-budget consultations

Brain Research Must Be a National Priority for the Social, Health, and Economic Advancement of Canada

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy and its broad network of stakeholders recommends the following:

 Recommendation 1: That the Government of Canada make research on the brain and mental health a national priority by establishing a Canadian Brain Research Initiative

Our brains define who we are, how we behave, what we strive for, and how we interact with each other and our environments. In 2016, science academies from 14 nations, including Canada, declared that the human brain is civilization’s most precious resource. Investment in brain science, therefore, is an investment in the future of society, and nations must cooperate to understand, protect, and foster optimal development of the brain7. The brain is the most complex biological system in the known universe. Understanding the brain and how it gives rise to such a range of human health and life necessitates large-scale collective efforts that span countries and political boundaries.

Canada needs to establish a Canadian Brain Research Initiative as part of a stand-alone neurological health policy that reflects the diverse realities of our country.

Read our full submission

Recruitment for CBRS Indigenous Engagement Sessions

Background

Indigenous Initiatives are a critical part of CBRS to ensure that the unique interests and perspectives of the diverse groups of Indigenous Peoples of Canada are acknowledged, upheld, and implemented throughout all aspects of our work as we build a national strategy for brain research. 

Amplifying the unique and diverse voices of Indigenous peoples in Canada will allow for enriched brain research, as these voices have long been silenced via the colonial structures in the country. We strive to acknowledge the past (including historical injustices), recognize the present (appreciate Indigenous strengths in culture and language), and envision the future (healthy reciprocal relationships between Indigenous Peoples and Canada).  

A robust national brain initiative must encompass the vast, distinct, and rich traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as affirm the community expertise and sovereignty of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people.   

“Indigenous people are not well represented in brain research – brain research is not focused on Indigenous peoples, or researchers have not yet had the conversations about cultural relevance. If we do not find a way to include Indigenous people, the disparities that exist in these research domains, and accessibility to innovations and treatments may only grow”. 

– Dr. Christopher Mushquash, IKHG Member 

Who are we looking for? 

We are looking for researchers in neuroscience and mental health (especially Early Career Researchers and trainees), Traditional Knowledge Holders, and People With Lived Experience (PWLE), to participate in one of a series of 90-min Focus Groups for CBRS Indigenous Initiatives.  

These individuals do not need to be directly involved in brain research but should be able to provide insight and feedback from an Indigenous perspective, regarding our six strategic focus areas: Open Neuroscience, Diversity & Team Science, Neuroethics, Platform Science, Transdisciplinary Training, and Neuroscience-AI Interface. Find out more about our priorities for Indigenous Initiatives here.

If you or you know any individuals, groups, or organizations, who might want to be involved: indigenous@canadianbrain.ca 

 

Lived Experience Sessions Recap

The sessions were held in May-June 2022

The CBRS is building a collective national strategy to inspire and guide the Canadian government to invest in a major brain research initiative. As CBRS engages various groups of experts to inform the strategy, incorporating the voices of people who live with or have experienced a brain condition and those who support them is of particular importance.  

CBRS held a series of Lived Experience Sessions in May-June 2022 with people with lived experience (PWLE) to discuss emerging themes for how to improve brain research in Canada and to gain their input on the development of the national strategy.  

CBRS received an overwhelming 161 applications from across Canada after just 2.5 weeks. Forty participants aged 16 to 84 years were selected to reflect a balance of diversity across neurological, mental health, and brain injury, geography (rural and urban centers), gender, race, Indigenous identity, socioeconomic status, education level, and familiarity with research. 

Introductory Workshop 

The CBRS held an Introductory Workshop for PWLE on May 17th, 2022 to help participants learn more about CBRS and the work done to date. Participants shared how they imagine brain research could be transformed to benefit the neurological and mental health of all Canadians 

The following major takeaways came out of the Introductory Workshop:  

  • PWLE understand the critical importance of research and how it impacts care and treatment down the road. 
  • PWLE are interested to learn about all types of research and how it works. They are excited to be involved and to partner in the research process.
  • PWLE have ideas about the future of brain research and how to overcome challenges to get there.
  • PWLE identified the CBRS’ six Strategic Focus Areas as embodying at least one dimension of importance and value as classified using the descriptive words relevant, revolutionary, urgent, progressive, achievable, and efficient. 

PWLE Engagement Workshop for Researchers 

More than 25 researchers who had previously participated in a series of Researcher Roundtable consultations on each CBRS Strategic Focus Area took part in a workshop to learn about engaging PWLE in research in preparation for the focus groups.  

Participants shared how they imagine brain research could be transformed by engaging with people with lived experience and the types of knowledge and expertise that PWLE can lend to the national strategy. 

Focus Groups 

Following the individual Workshops, the CBRS hosted a series of 6 focus groups on each CBRS Strategic Focus Area in June 2022 for both lived experience participants and researchers. Feedback from the respective Researcher Roundtable was used to frame the discussion. 

Focus group participants were asked to share their feedback on the importance of their designated Strategic Focus Area and to discuss its potential to impact brain research and the lives of PWLE. 

Welcome new team member Joseph Olajide

Joseph Olajide, PhD, is the Program Manager at the Canadian Brain Research Strategy, where he serves as an organizational and analytical partner in convening internal and external stakeholders. Dr. Olajide brings a passion for advocating for brain science and mental health across all strata of society. He has been engaged in international brain awareness outreach initiatives throughout his career, including programs to reduce societal stigmatization of brain and mental health issues, and to promote diversity and women’s participation in neuroscience in Africa. Prior to CBRS, Joseph held positions as a Lecturer and led research teams as a Research Associate at Concordia University. He remains a faculty member at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. He obtained a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology in a joint program from the University of Ilorin and the University College London, with further training at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Italy through an Arturo Falaschi Fellowship.

Shape the future of brain research in Canada!

Share your lived experience to inform the Canadian Brain Research Strategy

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy (CBRS) is looking for 30-40 people with lived experience with brain conditions to include their feedback into the development of the strategy. CBRS and its partners recommend that Canada establish a national brain research initiative to benefit the neurological and mental health of Canadians. We want to hear the issues that matter most to you about brain research!

Who can participate:

Patients, people with lived experience with brain conditions, family and caregivers, patient representatives and advocates. No research training or experience is required.

We are looking for diverse voices across age, geography, race, gender and experience. All people living in Canada are welcome to apply.

What’s the commitment:

Participants will attend

  1. One workshop on Tuesday May 17, 2022 from 7:00 – 8:30PM ET (1.5 hrs)
  2. One focus group during the week of June 13th or June 20th (1.5 hrs)

How to get involved:

If you’d like to participate, complete an application form at this link: https://forms.gle/3JbTYDhx6sArEr1m7

Compensation:

Participants will be compensated $100 for their time and expertise.

If you have any questions or experience difficulties with the application please email the CBRS Team at engagement@canadianbrain.ca.

Welcome new team member Andrew Manitowabi

Andrew ManitowabiAndrew Manitowabi, BA, BBA is the Indigenous Strategy Consultant for Brain Wellness, where he seeks to incorporate the duality of Indigeneity and Western being into advocating with underrepresented, vulnerable, and disadvantaged Indigenous peoples. Guiding and learning from the Indigenous Knowledges Holders Group is key to ensure meaningful, authentic, and transformative evolution occurs to achieve the vision set out by the CBRS. Affirming the utility of Indigenous Knowledge, while coveting ongoing Indigenous collaborations, will allow CBRS (and Canada as a whole) to truly shift the landscape of brain knowledge. Mr. Manitowabi has a lifelong affinity for gracing the voiceless, the ability to shift paradigms and discourse. Mr. Manitowabi has worked at Indigenous organizations at the community and the provincial-territorial level. Concurrent to this position, he is the Anishinaabemowin Program Manager for Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, where he bridges Anishinaabe traditions and beliefs with current ways of living, regarding language revitalization. Mr. Manitowabi holds a BA in Criminology and First Nations Studies from Western University, and a BBA from Laurentian University.

Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Science & Research

Our brains define who we are, how we behave, what we strive for, and how we interact with each other and our environments. Because our brains are so integral to our capacities to live good lives, brain research has the promise to improve the lives of all Canadians.

We are at a critical inflection point in making progress to understand the human brain. Canada must seize this opportunity to reap the societal and economic benefits and needs to be able to keep up with, connect to, and draw on the efforts of other national and pan-national brain initiatives.   

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Science & Research (SRSR Committee) was created in the fall of 2021 to boost the attention on science from federal parliamentarians and to allow them to hear from Canadians and experts on issues of national concern on science and research. In its first project, the SRSR Committee conducted a study of the “Successes, challenges and opportunities for science in Canada” to develop recommendations as to how to improve the current state of science research nationally. 

The CBRS submitted a brief calling for the establishment of a Brain Research Initiative for Canada. An executive summary of the submitted brief is outlined below:  

Executive Summary

The coalition convened by the CBRS believes that the time for a Canadian Brain Research Initiative is now. We have the network, partnerships, vision, and strategic plan in place. Now we need the funding to catalyze this network into concerted, bold, and concrete action. 

  • Understanding the brain – in health and disease, across the entire lifespan, and in interaction with emerging technologies – will be critical to Canada’s success and well-being in the 21st century.
  • Canada’s neuroscience and mental health researchers are among the most productive and influential in the world, despite operating with more limited funding than many of their global colleagues.
  • The CBRS has united Canada’s brain researchers, in coalition with Indigenous Peoples, private and public science funders, industry leaders, and people with lived experience of brain disease or injury, to develop a clear and compelling vision for how to revolutionize the study of the brain and translate our research into applications that will benefit all Canadians
  • This coalition has collectively envisioned six near-term initiatives that positions Canada as a world leader in brain research that is open, collaborative, transdisciplinary, ethical, inclusive, and critically, successful at the large scale needed to make real progress on one of the most complex systems ever known.
  • Canada’s emerging brain research strategy has also been informed by its leadership in the International Brain Initiative (IBI). Unlike some of its IBI counterparts (the US, EU, and Japan), Canada has never had a national brain research initiative.

You can download the full brief here.

The submitted brief is based on outcomes from “A Canadian BRAIN Initiative?” panel discussion at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in November 2021.

Continuing our momentum into 2022

As we launch into 2022, we at CBRS are energized by what we have accomplished together in the past year, in this new phase of the initiative. Thank you all for this tremendous start as we work towards our main objective: To inspire the government to invest in a major brain research initiative for Canada.

  • 2021 marked the establishment of the CBRS Secretariat and widening of the CBRS Leadership. We introduced the Indigenous Knowledges Holders Group and continued engagement of early career researchers and of patient voices through our partnership with Neurological Health Charities Canada.
  • In our role as conveners and facilitators, we began outreach to bring together the broader neuroscience and mental health ecosystem, including convening research funders across the country from both public and private domains.
  • Together, we aligned around a clear identity and arrived at six Transformative Initiatives that represent Canada’s distinctive collaborative, transdisciplinary, and open approach to brain research. This collaborative spirit is both how we work together internally and how we envision Canadian brain research to be.
  • This year will see us continuing to build on our inclusive process as we work to lay the foundation for our case for investment to government. We will ramp up initiative task force meetings – including gathering insights from diverse expertise beyond academia, from Indigenous and patient communities to research funders.

Thank you, and we look forward to continued collaboration with every voice as we shape a collective vision for brain research and societal impact to benefit all Canadians.

Sincerely, the CBRS Secretariat.

 

See resulting key publications and newsletters.

Canadian Science Policy Conference 2021

The CBRS organized a panel discussion titled, “A Canadian BRAIN Initiative?” at the Canadian Science Policy Conference on November 25th, 2021.

In 2016, the science academies from 14 nations, including Canada, declared: The human brain is civilization’s most precious resource. Investment in brain science is, therefore, an investment in the future of society, and nations must cooperate to understand, protect, and foster optimal development of the brain (http://bit.ly/G-SciBrain2016).

CBRS has represented Canada on the Strategy Committee of the International Brain Initiative since its first convening in early 2018, but we do not yet have a national brain research initiative. This panel discussed the need and opportunity to develop a strategy where Canada can distinguish itself by setting the standard for a new model of neuroscience that is open, collaborative, transdisciplinary and ethical.

Moderated by Dr. Yves De Koninck, panelists presented examples and lessons learned from established transnational brain initiatives and emerging national efforts, while taking into account the realities of the Canadian research landscape and the needs of patients in order to maximize societal, health and economic impact.

Conference Panel proceedings and panel recording are available here.

Watch here:


Panel Members

  • Ms. Deanna Groetzinger directs Neurological Health Charities Canada, a coalition of organizations that represent people with brain diseases, disorders and injuries. NHCC provides leadership in working collaboratively to advance advocacy, education and research to benefit all people affected by brain conditions.
  • Dr. Jan Bjaalie is the Vice-Chair Science and Infrastructure Board of the Human Brain Project, as well as Chair of the International Brain Initiative.
  • Dr. Jason Mattingley is the Executive co-Chair of the Australia Brain Alliance.
  • Dr. Shernaz Bamji, as President of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience, is ideal to present the strength of the neuroscience and mental health research community in Canada.
  • Moderator: Dr. Yves De Koninck is Chair of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy.

Outcomes from this panel informed a brief we submitted to the Standing Committee on Science and Research.

Canadian Symposium for Computational Neuroscience: “A Framework for Neuroscience-AI in the Canadian Brain Research Strategy.”

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

CBRS will be hosting a Q&A session, led by Executive Director Dr. Jennie Young and Dr. Karim Jerbi, lead of the Neuroscience-AI transformative initiative, 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.”

This session will offer attendees of the conference the opportunity to learn more about CBRS, our core initiatives, plans moving forward, and how to be engaged.

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