New research task studies memory encoding

November 29, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Forgot where you parked your car? It would happen more frequently without the brain’s ability to distinguish between similar events. Remembering where you parked your car today as opposed to yesterday, or what you wore to work earlier this week, is possible because of a memory process known as pattern separation. It’s the brain’s way of differentiating between similar memories.

To understand pattern separation processes in the brain, Western University researchers developed a test in rodents called spontaneous location recognition (SLR). Published earlier this month in Nature Protocols, this two-phase memory task is the first to test pattern separation at the encoding phase – when information for a memory is being processed in the brain and pattern separation is thought to occur.

New study makes sense of sensory processing in autistic children

November 15, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Results of a recent study on sensory abilities in autistic children may have positive consequences to the way supports are provided to them, helping increase their quality of life.

Western University psychology professor, Ryan Stevenson and Western BrainsCAN postdoctoral fellow Nichole Scheerer were part of a study that examined the sensory abilities of 599 autistic children. The results, published last month in Molecular Autism, found that sensory abilities can be grouped into five phenotypes or categories, revealing different sensory processing patterns. These categories were also found to predict autistic behavioural traits.

BrainsCAN Year Five Highlights

September 23, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Five years ago, BrainsCAN received funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support high-impact/high-reward research with the goal to transform the way brain diseases and disorders are understood, diagnosed and treated. Since that time, we’ve brought together researchers from all levels of the nervous system to accelerate important brain discoveries.

This past year, we added a special call to our Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, launched an undergraduate internship program, granted more internal funding awards, and developed new international research collaborations.

Unlocking dementia: Finding memories through music

September 21, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

It’s a warm summer evening. You’re driving in your car when a song comes on that suddenly reminds you of an experience you had many years ago. You remember the experience so well it transports you back in time.

Over our lifetime, we collect countless memories from all aspects of our lives, but are only ever aware of a handful of memories at a time. Many things can trigger a memory, but it’s often music that evokes memories and induces a sense of nostalgia – it can even do this for someone with dementia.

BrainsCAN Summer Internship Program brings neuroscience research to life for Western undergraduates

September 16, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

Ashini Peiris was a third year undergraduate student looking to continue her neuroscience research over the summer when she received an email introducing the BrainsCAN Diversity in Neuroscience Summer Internship program.

“Diversity in neuroscience – that’s me!” Peiris recalled thinking. “The program was designed for someone like me, someone in a minority. I was just so proud that Western was doing this.”

Peiris was one of seven undergraduate students awarded a Diversity in Neuroscience Summer Internship. The program provides Western University undergraduate students who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, with a disability, or as a woman, an opportunity to have an immersive experience in a cognitive neuroscience research environment. The goal is to give those in marginalized groups the research skills needed to excel in academia and beyond.

Q&A: The risks of cannabis use during pregnancy

June 30, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

We know that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. Those who are expecting are told to steer clear of raw fish, unpasteurized dairy, and certain medications. But what about cannabis?

The answers aren’t as clear because the recreational use of cannabis became legal in Canada less than three years ago. It is a relatively new area of research now that there’s less regulation, but the number of studies surrounding the drug has skyrocketed.

Mina Nashed, BrainsCAN postdoctoral fellow, published a review paper in Frontiers of Psychiatry earlier this year titled Prenatal Cannabinoid Exposure: Emerging Evidence of Physiological and Neuropsychiatric Abnormalities to explore what the science says to date.

Jody Culham named Canada Research Chair for innovative immersive neuroscience methods

June 15, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

One year after earning a New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) Exploration grant, Jody Culham, Professor in the Department of Psychology and member of the BrainsCAN Human Cognitive and Sensorimotor Research and Innovation Core (HCS RIC), has been named a Canada Research Chair in Immersive Neuroscience.

She describes immersive neuroscience, a term she coined, as a complement to traditional, reductionist neuroscience that uses approaches to study behaviour and brain function in the natural world.

“Immersive neuroscience is moving brain research closer to the real world,” explained Culham, “Of course, the gold standard is the real world itself, but modern technologies can offer compelling simulations. Think virtual reality, augmented reality and video games.”

BrainsCAN's statement on the tragic killing of Daunte Wright

April 15, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

BrainsCAN stands in solidarity with the Black community, who continue to experience painful reminders of social injustice. The recent murder of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis reflects the continued anti-Black racism that has afflicted our society and has a profound impact on the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of the Black community. We must acknowledge, check-in, and support our Black scholars, trainees, and staff during these times.

We condemn any form of prejudice, stigmatization or racism.

We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the research environment we provide is equitable and inclusive. We accept our responsibility to challenge and overhaul systems which continue to devalue or discriminate against individuals on the basis of racial identity or Indigeneity. As an initiative we maintain accountability to self-reflection, program reform and meaningful action to combat systemic racism.

Neuroscientists show planning ahead is key for controlling movement on and off the court

March 31, 2021  -  Western News

When Fred VanVleet brings the basketball up the court, the Toronto Raptors guard needs to read the defence and decide his next move while still controlling a continuous flow of movements to keep his dribble alive.

Depending on the actions of his teammates, and the opposing defenders, ‘Steady’ Freddy may have to change plans of action very quickly. And as any Raptors fan knows, he can.

A new study from Western University, supported by BrainsCAN, suggests that this sort of dual-task ability (planning ahead while controlling ongoing movement) is a fundamental aspect of complex skilled behaviours, like playing basketball. And, more importantly, this ability can be improved with practice.


Results Announcement: BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program

March 12, 2021  -  BrainsCAN Communications

The eighth round of BrainsCAN’s Accelerator Internal Granting Program results have been announced. Two, two-year projects were funded under this round.

For more information about the Accelerator Internal Granting Program, please visit https://brainscan.uwo.ca/programs/accelerator_program/index.html

For more information about past Accelerator results, please see: https://brainscan.uwo.ca/results/accelerator_program.html