The Canadian Brain Research Strategy (CBRS) has been developed through a series of workshops that brought together scientists, ethicists and other stakeholders from across Canada (see History page). It is an evolving process, and here are some examples of the kind of brain research we could envision.
1. National Transdisciplinary Training Platform
Young Canadians are tomorrow’s leaders in academia, health care and industry, and they will ensure that advances in brain research broadly inform a knowledge-based society. But to make breakthrough discoveries about how the brain learns, remembers and adapts, Canada needs to equip a new generation of scientists to do transdisciplinary neuroscience and mental health research. A national training platform will create a shared language among biologists, physical and computational scientists, and social scientists, and will break down the barriers between scientific disciplines that impede progress. It will also build capacity in neuroscience-related areas of ethics, law and policy to empower the design of studies and translation of new discoveries for the benefit of everyone. Finally, it will ensure Canada’s neuroscience future reflects the nation’s diversity.
2. Distributed Technology Development & Dissemination Platforms
CBRS will hardwire Canadian brain research, creating a national infrastructure that eliminates the geographic and institutional barriers to developing and disseminating new brain research tools, technologies and methods. These platforms will enable scientists to conduct research beyond the scope of their own laboratories; in much the same way that astronomers can access telescopes to probe the universe or nanoscientists can use molecular foundries to create new materials with nanoscale precision, Canadian scientists will be able to access the most powerful brain research tools through a series of distributed technology platforms, and use them to uncover new insights about neuroplasticity. Beyond providing access to shared tools, these platforms will be dynamic, collaborative hubs that connect technology developers, testers and users, to accelerate the development and open dissemination of new tools.
3. International Neuroscience Open Data Platform
New technologies are enabling scientists to collect unprecedented amounts of data about the brain. The challenge in the coming decades will be to integrate these data into a holistic model of brain structure and function. Achieving such a model will require greater collaboration between experimentalists and theorists, powerful computational resources, new approaches to data analysis, and a workforce with the quantitative skills to extract meaning from large datasets.
CBRS will connect and enhance Canada’s existing computational resources and experts. For example, it will bring together theoretical and experimental brain researchers to advance our understanding of how the brain learns. These researchers will collaborate to formulate new theories of learning and memory, and to make predictions that can be tested experimentally to discover the brain’s neural code and how it adapts. Finally, CBRS will also foster and facilitate data sharing among the countries involved in the IBI.