The Challenge

Tragically, for those affected and their families, brain damage and disease invariably result in impairments in human cognition, creating deficits in memory, attention, knowledge, problem solving and communication, impairing how we interact with everything and everyone around us. In the absence of effective therapies, disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, dyslexia, schizophrenia and depression create enormous burdens on society (neurological and psychiatric disorders together account for $22.7 billion per year in Canada) and diminished quality of life. Advances in modern medicine have also created unintended consequences - while increases in longevity have led to a rising incidence of dementia, our ability to predict decline and offer treatment is also limited.

The Vision

Uncovering how brain networks support our actions, thoughts and emotions, and how these become disrupted in disorders that affect humans across the lifespan, will profoundly impact how we understand ourselves, each other and the societies in which we live.  BrainsCAN, enabled through investments from CFREF and our partners, will deliver evidence-based assessments and interventions for the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the brain – approaches informed by answers to fundamental aspects of how we learn, think, move and communicate.

The Strategy

Understanding the brain is one of the most critical challenges facing modern society, as evidenced through the billions of dollars invested globally. Much of this work has been at the circuit and molecular levels, but these levels of analysis alone will not explain how the human brain gives rise to the complexities of the human mind and human cognition. BrainsCAN will map high-level cognitive functions onto the underlying neural circuitry to better understand the brain in function and dysfunction across the lifespan.

The Impact

The BrainsCAN team will provide the critically needed scientific knowledge to radically transform our understanding of the cognitive dysfunctions that accompany brain disorders, leading to robust, evidence-based assessments and interventions, increasing the quality of life of the over 3.6M Canadians who suffer from neurological, neurodevelopmental or neuropsychiatric diseases. These interventions will transform how children learn in classrooms, how surgeons operate to remediate disease and how patients are diagnosed and cared for in the clinic. Many of the cognitive assessments we propose to develop will also be essential to the evaluation of future genetic and pharmacological manipulations. This knowledge will also inform public policy and medicolegal ethics frameworks to guide how we care for our most vulnerable populations.