Behavioural research gets boost with first open-access database

December 17, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Neuroscience researchers at Western University have developed the first open-access repository for raw data from mouse cognitive testing. Called MouseBytes, the database gives researchers a platform to share rodent cognition data using touchscreen cognitive testing with labs around the world. It is supported by Western’s BrainsCAN, and built on previous funding from the Weston Brain Institute.

A new paper published last week in the science journal eLife describes how MouseBytes can enhance transparency, data sharing and reproducibility in research findings. By sharing research data and working collaboratively, researchers can use MouseBytes to gain an improved understanding of rodent cognition – and ultimately, discover insights into how the human brain works. The work involved expertise from Western researchers, along with researchers at other institutions including co-senior author, Boyer Winters from the University of Guelph.

Fellow aims to help others through WORLDiscoveries’ Medical Innovation Fellowship Program

November 1, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

At an age when many are deciding what to do with their lives, a then-20-year-old Wagner Souza found himself considering the end of his.

“When I was in my journalism program, I got sick. I got deadly sick,” said Souza, now 36 and enrolled in the Western Medical Innovation Fellowship Program at WORLDiscoveries in partnership with Western’s BrainsCAN. “All of my doctors were very concerned that I might not make it.”

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 the brain, BrainsCAN has been supporting high-impact research studies through its 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.

BrainsCAN has launched the seventh round of the Accelerator Internal Granting Program. Interested researchers are asked to submit their letters of intent online by November 19.

The brain’s regions work together when it comes to skilled motor sequences

October 3, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Many skills, such as typing, playing an instrument or tying a knot, rely on complex sequences of movements. Despite being common activities, researchers are still discovering how the brain is able to plan and execute all the movements required to complete these, and other motor tasks. 

To better understand how motor sequences are represented in the brain, Atsushi Yokoi, a researcher at CiNet, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and Jörn Diedrichsen, Western University Computational Neuroscience Professor, worked together to map finger movement sequences.

BrainsCAN partnership aims to showcase impact of dementia support

September 20, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Tony Paul and his wife Susan were teenagers when they met in London. Now married 45 years, they have raised two children and are proud grandparents. Like many couples, they were looking forward to retirement. But two years before Tony was set to retire, Susan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Highlighting three years of BrainsCAN support

September 16, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Since 2016, BrainsCAN has funded and supported high-impact/high-reward research to help transform the way brain diseases and disorders are understood, diagnosed and treated. Over the past year, we’ve added new programs, funded new research and supported open science projects with the goal to reduce the burden of brain disorders.

Researchers find left- and right-handers share similarities in the brain when it comes to numbers

August 27, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Left- and right-handers may write with different hands, but the brain processes numbers the same way for both.

In a new Registered Report, supported by BrainsCAN, NSERC and CIHR, Western University researchers, Celia Goffin, Moriah Sokolowski, Michael Slipenkyj and Daniel Ansari found the brain’s location for processing numbers is the same for both right- and left-handed individuals. 

Yalda Mohsenzadeh joins BrainsCAN Computational Core

August 14, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

On August 1, the newest member of BrainsCAN’s Computational Core, Yalda Mohsenzadeh began at Western. Mohsenzadeh joined the Computational Core in addition to Western’s Brain and Mind Institute, and the Department of Computer Science as an Assistant Professor.

Mohsenzadeh’s research will focus on investigating human vision and memory using a combination of neuroimaging (fMRI and MEG/EEG), behavior, computational modeling and machine learning. The first five years of her appointment are funded by BrainsCAN, followed by support from the Faculty of Science.

Western University develops first-of-its-kind task-based map of the human cerebellum

July 22, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

It is the second largest structure in the human brain and contains more neurons than any other area. Tucked under the back of the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum is often overlooked when considering how the brain manages complex cognition such as language or problem solving. For the first time, its involvement in cognition can now be examined in comprehensive detail thanks to a newly released map by researchers at Western University.

In a study published earlier this month in Nature Neuroscience, Western researchers released a functional atlas of the brain’s cerebellum. Lead author, Maedbh King created the map as a Western student in collaboration with Western Computational Neuroscience Professor, Jörn Diedrichsen, and University of California, Berkeley Professor, Richard Ivry, with support from Western’s BrainsCAN. The detailed map shows the functional correlates of each cerebellar region in never-before-seen detail.

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates receive CIHR Fellowships

July 17, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Two BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates are among the most recent awardees of the esteemed Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Fellowship Program. Cassandra Lowe and Yiming Xiao were both awarded CIHR Fellowships this spring for their research in cognitive neuroscience.

Xiao’s three-year fellowship with supervisors, Terry Peters and Ali Khan will use artificial intelligence to understand the interplay between disease progression, brain connectivity, and deep brain stimulation in treating Parkinson’s disease.

Lowe’s two-year fellowship will examine whether aerobic exercise can improve brain health and cognition in youth with obesity. She will work with supervisor JB Morton.

Funding announced for fifth round of BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program

June 18, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

A fifth round of BrainsCAN Accelerator grants have been awarded to impactful cognitive neuroscience programs at Western University. Earlier this year, 10 applications from the fall intake round were approved for funding from the BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program. Research programs range from examining cognitive functions in multiple sclerosis (MS), to understanding factors that contribute to mental health problems in teenagers.

The BrainsCAN Accelerator Program was designed to push the limits of cognitive neuroscience by supporting high-risk/high-reward research programs. The Accelerator program was launched in early 2017 and since it began, five rounds of funds totaling more than $3 million have been awarded to Western researchers. In total, 25 departments across five faculties have benefited from BrainsCAN Accelerator funding.

Volunteers help unlock deeper understanding

June 13, 2019  -  Western News

Finding volunteers has often been the technological equivalent of the carrier pigeon – even if the message goes out, it’s anyone’s guess how many will see it and respond, in the necessary numbers and demographics, and at the right time.

That’s why researchers in neuroscience, one of Western’s signature areas, recently launched the Cognitive Neuroscience Research Registry, also known as OurBrainsCAN. There, anyone can sign up online to become part of a general database that scientists can then scour for participants who fit their study’s needs. 

Inaugural touchscreen symposium brings neuroscience researchers to Western

June 5, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Two brains are better than one, but more than 100 is even better. Starting today, over 100 neuroscience researchers from around the world are visiting Western University to take part in the first international touchscreen symposium, New frontiers in cognitive testing using touchscreen technology.

For the two-day symposium on cognitive behavioural testing to evaluate neurochemical circuits, experts from renowned research institutes will share knowledge and research findings on topics including Alzheimer’s disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Huntington disease and more. The symposium is organized by Western neuroscientists, Dr. Flavio Beraldo and Dr. Amy Reichelt, and supported by Western’s BrainsCAN and the International Society for Neurochemistry.

Thinking beyond the neuron

June 4, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

How does the brain control what information becomes memories and can this be affected by diet and obesity?

A new article from Western University published today in Trends in Neuroscience describes the role of perineuronal nets (PNNs) – structures that enmesh certain neurons in the brain – in protecting the neuron and regulating how often the brain turns experiences into memories. Dr. Amy Reichelt, a BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow at Western, along with renowned Western neuroscientists and professors in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Dr. Lisa Saksida and Dr. Tim Bussey describe PNNs, what effect they have on the brain and what happens when they’re not working.

BrainsCAN contributes to Canada’s new equity, diversity and inclusion program

May 10, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Dr. Lisa Saksida, Western University neuroscientist and BrainsCAN’s Co-Scientific Director, understands the importance of an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy for the research community. Saksida was a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge when she was involved in a working group for Athena SWAN, the United Kingdom's internationally-recognized EDI program that aims to advance the representation of women in all disciplines. Now as a Western researcher, Saksida sits on the Canada Association for Neuroscience (CAN) EDI and Advocacy Committees, and is Chair of Western BrainsCAN’s Equity and Diversity Committee.

When it came time for the Government of Canada to develop a made-in-Canada EDI strategy, it was no surprise that BrainsCAN, led by Saksida, was asked to be involved in the consultation around the creation of this new program.

BrainsCAN funding leads to NSERC grant

May 7, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Dr. Tim Bussey, a professor in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, used his Accelerator findings to support his recent NSERC research application. Prior to this grant application, Bussey’s Accelerator study examined certain brain cells called astrocytes to gain a better understanding of a memory process known as pattern separation.

“The BrainsCAN Accelerator Grant gave me the freedom to produce pilot data on pattern separation in the brain and create a case for a NSERC grant,” said Bussey.

His work resulted in one of Western’s largest NSERC funds for the fall intake round. In this new NSERC program, Bussey is expanding on his Accelerator research by aiming to understand how the brain uses pattern separation to keep memories distinct – a process that is often disrupted during brain diseases.

New registry to boost brain research participation

March 25, 2019  -  Western News

Neuroscience researchers at Western have long worked with members of the London community to gather data for their studies. Launched this week, OurBrainsCAN is a central participant registry for cognitive research at Western with the goal to increase community involvement in these world-class brain studies. The registry – located at ourbrainscan.uwo.ca – was developed by BrainsCAN, Western’s cognitive neuroscience research initiative.

“For our research discoveries to really apply to Canadians in general, our research participants have to be people from different backgrounds and of different ages,” said Ingrid Johnsrude, Director of the Brain and Mind Institute, one of the leaders of OurBrainsCAN. “This new participant registry will not only give community members an easy and private way to sign up for research studies, but it will also allow us to do better science by engaging the whole community, and not just the young university students who traditionally are the majority of our research participants.”

The science behind déjà vu and other surprising brain discoveries

March 13, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

The brain is the last frontier in human biology. It generates our thoughts and emotions; it’s what makes us human. Neuroscience researchers are working to find the next discovery in the hopes of unlocking the brain’s secrets.

For BrainsCAN’s Research Management Committee (RMC), their years of research excellence in cognitive neuroscience has contributed to numerous scientific discoveries at Western University. To celebrate Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to increase awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, several BrainsCAN RMC members described a time where a research finding surprised them. It turns out the brain can still amaze even the most distinguished neuroscientists.

Brain research leads to new discoveries

March 8, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Nearly 3.6 million Canadians are currently living with a brain disorder, diminishing quality of life and creating an enormous burden on our health-care system. World-class BrainsCAN research, taking place at Western University, is helping transform the lives of those with brain diseases and disorders. 

With funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), BrainsCAN-aligned researchers are working together to find new discoveries. Over the last six months, research findings have shed light on the brain’s response to obesity, concussions, and aging, all with the goal to better understand how the brain works and find solutions to keep it healthy. For Brain Awareness Week (BAW), we’re highlighting the results of these brain studies.

Pre-frontal activity can be recipe for obesity

March 1, 2019  -  Western News

Finding it impossible to resist that craving for chocolate and potato chips? It may be all in your head ­– specifically in the part of your brain that controls self-regulation.

New Western research suggests there’s a link between obesity and the level of activity in a person’s prefrontal cortex. People with less activity in this brain region are more vulnerable to the lure of high-calorie foods rich in sugar and fats, says study lead author Cassandra Lowe, a BrainsCAN postdoctoral fellow.

New research on why some are big snackers

March 1, 2019  -  CTV News

New BrainsCAN review suggests a reciprocal relationship between obesity and self-control

February 26, 2019  -  Cell Press

In a review published February 26 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers explore the age-old chicken-or-the-egg conundrum but this time looking at whether obesity reduces self-control or if reduced self-control leads to obesity. The authors argue that the short answer is both, and it is largely due to activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is not only affected by our dietary choices, but can also influence it.

"It's not just the case that obesity is causing these issues in the brain structure and function, but it is this reciprocal relationship--that differences in brain structure and function can cause obesity, that's really important," says first author Cassandra Lowe (@cassandra_lowe), a BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow at the Western University. "Our review shows that if you have lower prefrontal activity, it can pre-dispose you to overeating, which in turn can lead to weight gain and obesity."

London Brain Bee 2019 encourages next generation of neuroscientists

February 22, 2019  -  Media Relations

For more than 40 years, some of Western University’s most internationally recognized research has come from the field of neuroscience research. A special event, later this spring, aims to encourage and foster the next generation of neuroscientists as Western hosts the London Brain Bee on Saturday, April 13.

Part of a worldwide initiative, the London Brain Bee is open to students in Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 from high schools in and around London, Ontario. The winner of the London Brain Bee will advance to the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee Championship at McMaster in May and the national winner will represent Canada at the International Brain Bee competition, which will be held in Daegu, South Korea this year.

BrainsCAN celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science

February 11, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Women have made significant contributions to science, yet in 2019, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women

A diverse scientific community strengthens research innovation and excellence. Western University is home to extraordinary women researchers who are contributing to cutting-edge science discoveries. Many of these researchers have become role models for the next generation of scientists. In the early 2000s, BrainsCAN’s Co-Scientific Director, Dr. Lisa Saksida, co-invented rodent touchscreen technology to test rodents in ways that resemble human tests. Now used by labs worldwide, this innovative technology is helping researchers better understand the psychological processes underlying memory and perception.

Researchers committed to open-science efforts

February 4, 2019  -  Western News

Placing collaboration above competition, Western researchers are partnering with more than 300 labs around the world to gain a better understanding of the mouse brain in hopes of unlocking the secrets Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders in humans. Led by BrainsCAN, this is the latest and largest project undertaken by the neuroscience initiative in a push for open-science research.

“There’s an understanding that collaboration is better than competition for science,” stressed Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor Tim Bussey. “It’s also the ethics of  public institutions – everybody paid for this (research) – and generating data, and then hoarding it, borders on unethical. The open-science movement is huge. It’s unstoppable.”

BrainsCAN expands globally with Cardiff University partnership

January 25, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

BrainsCAN, Western University’s neuroscience research initiative, is continuing to expand its global presence with a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cardiff University in Wales, UK. Through this MOU, BrainsCAN and Cardiff researchers will build collaborative, high-impact neuroscience research projects to develop and deliver evidence-based assessments for the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. 

“This formal partnership is the result of a longstanding relationship with researchers at Cardiff University,” said Dr. Lisa Saksida, BrainsCAN Co-Scientific Director. “We are thrilled to build on this partnership and bring together world-class cognitive neuroscience research from both institutions to benefit those affected by brain disorders and disease.”

BrainsCAN builds international collaborations with new research partnership

January 25, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

BrainsCAN, Western University’s neuroscience research initiative, is building international collaborations with a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. In the recently signed MOU, BrainsCAN and Yonsei researchers will work together to find effective solutions for maintaining a healthy brain.

“This significant partnership will broaden BrainsCAN’s ability to offer a collaborative, world-class, international research environment for neuroscience researchers,” said BrainsCAN Co-Scientific Director, Dr. Lisa Saksida. “We look forward to working with Yonsei to advance our understanding of the brain through this exciting new partnership.”

Q&A with Dr. Jane Rylett: Researching Alzheimer’s Disease

January 19, 2019  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects memory, thinking and behaviour. In Canada, one out of every 13 adults between the ages of 65 and 74 are affected by Alzheimer's disease and that number rises to one in four after the age of 85. With the number of Canadians affected by Alzheimer’s disease expected to increase over the next decade, continued research into dementia is critical.

Western University’s BrainsCAN initiative is transforming the way brain disorders, including dementia are understood, diagnosed and treated through high impact brain research. Dr. Jane Rylett is a Western University neuroscientist and a BrainsCAN-aligned researcher, internationally recognized for her contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research.