Awards announced for sixth round of BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program

October 25, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

The brain is the last frontier in human biology. While researchers have been examining the structure for centuries, there are still many unknowns about how the brain functions. In order to better understand it, BrainsCAN has been supporting high-impact research studies through our Accelerator Internal Granting Program.

In this sixth round of awarded Accelerator projects, Western University researchers will examine how to reverse brain reorganization for those with hearing loss; how neurons in the cerebral cortex allow us to perceive shape, color and objects; how self-efficacy affects memory performance; and how to study higher-level cognitive abilities in adolescents.

For researchers interested in applying for an Accelerator grant, we have launched the seventh round of the Accelerator Internal Granting Program. Interested researchers are asked to submit their letters of intent online by November 19.

Developing a mechanistic understanding of crossmodal reorganization following sensory loss
Blake Butler with Brian Allman, Ravi Menon, Stephen Lomber

Deafness dramatically alters brain structure and function, and has significant perceptual, social and economic impacts. Fortunately, decades of research and development aimed at restoring hearing through cochlear implants has allowed clinicians to restore the sense of sound to both children and adults with profound hearing loss. However, while many children who receive an implant go on to acquire normal spoken language by school age, a subset of children never get the full benefit of their restored hearing. We believe this difficulty reflects reorganization of brain regions that would normally process sound to instead contribute to other processes (e.g. vision, touch) in the deaf. While this phenomenon (plasticity) leads to enhancements of the remaining senses that may help compensate for hearing loss, these changes may also prevent the brain from processing sound once an implant has been provided. Our research aims to determine how we might reverse brain reorganization in the deaf in order to optimize recovery of function. To this end, we hope to provide a mechanistic view of the changes that underlie plasticity so that we might better understand the challenges inherent to sensory restoration.

Multi-area organization of saccade-evoked traveling waves in the NHP neocortex
Julio Martinez-Trujillo with Lyle Muller, Adam Williamson

Visual perception is essential to humans. A general consensus is that the organized activity of neurons in the cerebral cortex allows us to perceive shape, color and entire objects. How this process happens remains unclear. In this study, we will test the hypothesis that waves of electrical activity travelling across the cerebral cortex allow groups of neurons to process visual signals with temporal and spatial precision. We use a novel combination of electrophysiological recordings from hundreds of surface electrodes that span a large area of the cortex, behavioral analyses and computational techniques. Our results could potentially reveal a mechanism underlying the spatiotemporal dynamic of visual perception, and provide the foundation for future studies aimed at understanding the causes of complex mental diseases.

Can self-efficacy training improve memory and functional activation in older adults with Mild Cognitive Training? A proof-of-concept intervention study
Lindsay Nagamatsu with Derek Mitchell, Paul Minda, Amer Burhan, Becky Horst

Confidence in one's ability to accomplish a task, more formally known as self-efficacy, is an important psychological variable that can influence how we perform on various tasks. Previous studies have shown that self-efficacy is a modifiable trait that can be improved and bolstered with training and practice. More importantly for this study, memory self-efficacy has been shown to be modifiable for older adults, improving their performance on memory tasks. While there is evidence to support the importance of memory self-efficacy for successful memory performance in older adults, the underlying neurological changes that accompany these performance changes have not been explored. The goal of this study is to examine the changes in brain activity before and after a memory self-efficacy training program to better understand the mechanisms of both memory and self-efficacy.

Developing and validating tools to assess higher level cognition in children and adolescents
Bobby Stojanoski with Marc Joanisse, Ryan Stevenson, Cambridge Brain Sciences

The aim of this project is to develop and validate a cognitive battery comprising of 12 tests that measures various aspects of higher-level cognitive abilities, such as short-term and episodic memory, planning, reasoning, verbal abilities and executive functioning. Each test will be designed specifically for children and adolescents between the age of 7 - 15. Adapting and repurposing existing adult cognitive tests will not be sufficient. When creating the battery, the tests will be designed with a developmental lens, that is, the specific set of properties imbued by the brains of children and adolescents, including visual, motor and attentional capacities, along with specific interests that shape how they process the world. Once complete, each of the tasks that makeup the cognitive battery will be housed online so that children and adolescents from all over the world can complete the tests from home. This project will open the door to conducting large-scale online studies of cognition from a diverse sample of participants representing the general population and creating a unique platform for understanding, detecting and predicting delays in cognition during the formative period from childhood to adolescence.

For more information about the BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program and how to apply, visit: