The BrainsCAN Accelerator Program is a strategic internal funding opportunity with the explicit goal of increasing and accelerating interdisciplinary research within the BrainsCAN initiative and, where appropriate, with our partners.
The Accelerator Awards promote curiosity-driven research and high-impact projects in the area of cognitive neuroscience, with the understanding that these may also be high-risk and likely could not be funded through traditional channels.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Brian Allman; and Paul Walton
To limit the damage caused by noise-induced oxidative stress, we intend to determine the most effective way to deliver a customized version of catalase to the vulnerable sensory hair cells in the cochlea. We will conduct experiments to explore how best to 'package' and deliver catalase to the subject.
BrainsCAN, Western University; Flavio Henrique Beraldo de Paiva; Marco Prado; and Vania Prado
This research will focus specifically on evaluating cognitive flexibility (the ability to respond and adapt behaviours to changes in the environment), cognitive dysfunction (changes in the intellectual processing and reasoning that impact daily functions, to a greater severity than what might be expected from typical age-related decline) and long-term memory in a PD model using touchscreens.
BrainsCAN, Western University; Arthur Brown; Marco Prado; Rob Bartha; Ravi Menon; and Mark Daley
The foundational milestone for the research, that we are addressing in this project, is to demonstrate that cognitive impairments in mouse models and humans are similar by using touchscreen technology. We will also be applying fMRI and MRS analyses to mouse models since they are analogous to that used in human studies - it will help us establish relevant endpoints for the studies as part of understanding the underlying characteristics, pathways and effects of concussion.
Integrating behavioural, imaging and transcriptional profiling to discover the impact of midlife stress in Alzheimer's disease
BrainsCAN , Western University; Tim Bussey; Flavio Beraldo; Chakravarty Maller; Rosemary Bagot; Sylvain Williams; and Claudia Kleinman
We will be integrating this cognitive assessment with imaging of brain structure and function to understand the mechanisms by which a risk factor, in this case modifiable life stress, influences Alzheimer's disease-related decline. The resultant data will be integrated and disseminated using a new open-access neuroinformatics platform developed at Western (MouseBytes.ca), which will become a unique resource for open science investigations and set the standard for sharing of behavioural data across the world.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Timothy Bussey; Vania Prado; Ceci Kramar; Marco Prado; and Lisa Saksida
It has recently been shown that astrocytes play a leading role in a particular aspect of memory known as 'pattern separation' - differentiating between similar experiences or episodes in memory (say, recalling where you parked your car today compared to where you parked it yesterday). Pattern separation is disrupted in a wide variety of diseases of the brain so it is of considerable interest to memory researchers.
We have already shown in a small pilot study that we can improve pattern separation with selective manipulation of astrocytes in a specific brain region. In this project, we will attempt to demonstrate a clear relationship between astrocyte signalling and performance at pattern separation, and propose the underlying mechanisms of this influence of astrocytes on pattern separation.
BrainsCAN, Western University; Blake E. Butler; Stephen Lomber; Kyle Gilbert; and Mathias Dietz
This work will significantly inform our understanding of 'neural plasticity', the ability of the brain to respond and reorganize to environmental changes or following an injury or disorder. It is also our hope that the results of this program will inform the design of devices to restore hearing - it might enable tuning of those devices to restore sensory representations in the brain in a patient-specific manner. We believe this will significantly reduce the impact of cognitive disorders that arise as a result of abnormal perception both in children and in older adults.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Brian Corneil; Stefan Everling; Joe Gati; and Pieter Medendorp
The MRI environment can stimulate the balance sensors within the inner ear. This is known as magnetovestibular stimulation (MVS), which occurs within the inner ear. It arises because of biophysical interactions between the fluids within our inner ear, the balance sensors and the magnetic field within an MRI machine.
This vestibular system usually deteriorates with aging and is commonly dysfunctional in disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and following concussions and strokes.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Robert Cumming; Robert Bartha; and Tim Scholl
Our project will attempt to determine the relative importance of astrocyte or neuronal directed lactate generation on memory by modifying mouse models to either suppress or overexpress the lactate producing enzyme in either cell type. Using these newly created transgenic mouse models, we aim to understand the processes of production and utilization of lactate and its effect on memory and cognition in health and in AD across the lifespan. The outcome of our study may lead to entirely new clinical approaches to treating cognitive and neurodegenerative disorders via drugs which alter lactate metabolism.
BrainsCAN, Western University; Sandrine de Ribaupierre; Barbara de Vrijer; Charles McKenzie; Roy Eagleson; Simon Levin; and Jacqueline Olgivie
Our hypothesis is that differences in the regional connectivity within the fetal brain (the structural and functional connections between regions of the brain) can be observed with fetal fMRI as early as in the second trimester of pregnancy.
If we can detect differences in an at-risk fetal brain and associate that with plancental and maternal data, we could recommend interventions, such as diet or medication changes, and then monitor the impact of treatment on the fetal brain.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Joern Diedrichsen; Naveed Ejaz; John W. Krakauer; Kevin Olds; Robert Teasell; Neil Duggal; and Andrew Pruszynski
We have assembled a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, surgeons, clinicians and neuroscientists from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Western University to develop a new device for assessing hand function. It will be capable of sensitively measuring fingertip forces across all five fingers and along all movement directions. Then we can use this device to develop and validate a clinical hand assessment for patients with brain injuries.
Single-photon calcium imaging for interrogating the circuitry of the frontoparietal cognitive control network
BrainsCAN , Western University; Stefan Everling; Ravi Menon; and Liya Ma
We will use miniscopes to detect activities in the frontal eye field, a brain region responsible for voluntary eye movements and perception and awareness in the field of vision. The detection of neuronal activity with calcium imaging can then be compared with the visual stimuli and eye movements expected. If successful, this project will show the feasibility of calcium imaging using miniscopes in this way and open the door for future work to expand our understanding of frontoparietal cortical circuits.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Jessica Grahn; Jorn Diedrichsen; Joe Gati; Molly Henry; Robert Zatorre; Jean-Baptiste Poline; Bratislav Misic; Estrid Jakobsen; Mor Regev; Marcel Farrés Franch; Virginia Penhune; and Emily Coffey
We will create a specific neuroimaging database focused on the auditory domain. It will allow researchers to ask questions about the neural circuitry underlying auditory behaviour in the healthy brain and to understand the sources of individual variability. We will include detailed information about experiential factors, such as musicianship and bilingualism that are not documented in any existing databases, so that it will be possible to investigate plasticity-related effects. It will also provide baseline data for clinical studies.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Björn Herrmann; and Ingrid Johnsrude 6612111
Our project will develop and evaluate a novel way (using functional imaging, fMRI, and electrophysiology, EEG) to assess this cognitive impact of hearing loss with engaging, real‐world auditory stimuli. We will try to assess listening effort in more realistic listening situations among healthy listeners, comparing detected effort in degraded and clear acoustic conditions.
Using EEG, we will then develop measures that are sensitive to the cognitive demands imposed by degraded speech, using these features to assess hearing function with engaging narratives in natural listening conditions.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Marc Joanisse; Daniel Ansari; Lisa Archibald; Elizabeth Hayden; Janis Oram Cardy; Ryan Stevenson; and Jeffrey Gruen
Our research has already uncovered a range of behavioural and neural factors that can differentiate between children whose development is impaired and those whose development is progressing typically. Intriguingly, our recent findings have also suggested that multiple learning disorders are often present in children with general cognitive difficulties like autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. However, a common feature of research in this area is that of a ‘distinct syndrome’ approach, only studying childhood disabilities separately.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Ingrid Johnsrude; Alex Billig; Matthew A. Howard III; David Steven; and Jorge Burneo
Through this research we have a unique opportunity to explore how auditory cortices respond to naturalistic stimuli and how that response changes with different tasks. This foundational work is critical if we are to understand abnormality in auditory cortices in disorders such as autism, specific language impairment, auditory processing disorders and prolonged auditory deprivation (due to hearing loss).
BrainsCAN , Western University; Ingrid Johnsrude; Björn Herrman; and Chris Allen
The current work proposes to develop and evaluate an electrophysiological recording setup capable of assessing neural function at all levels of the auditory neural pathway, including hair cells, auditory nerve fibers, brainstem and cortex. We will then test the neural responses across those levels of the auditory pathway in younger and older people.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Ali Khan; and Corey Baron
The overall goal of this transformative program is to develop novel imaging and analysis techniques for evaluating cortical architecture, providing a means to characterize and quantify structural features that have been invisible to MRI until now.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Stephen Lomber; Blake Butler; Stefan Everling; and Blaine Chronik
This study will permit us, for the first time, to examine the effects of deactivation of one cortical site on large-scale neural networks. It will permit neural networks to be functionally disassembled and the consequences of 'reversible' lesions, strokes or tumors to be assessed and modeled before they occur.
Relating functional and structural signatures of Parkinson’s disease to changes in dopamine signalling: A PET/fMRI study
BrainsCAN . Western University, Penny MacDonald, Udunna Anazodo, Justin Hicks, Frank Prato, and Alain Dagher
Cognitive impairments in early Parkinson's disease are known to be linked to complex changes in the dopamine system within the brain. For example, dopamine-producing neurons in one key region of the brain are significantly degenerated, but those in another are spared. Dopamine-replacement therapy (DRT) has been pursued and it has produced significant improvements in certain cognitive functions - unfortunately it also produced significant impairments in others.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Penny MacDonald; Ali Khan; Adrian Owen; and Ravi Menon
By using a multi-modal imaging approach - combining a number of different imaging techniques - we will seek to understand the dopaminergic pathways of the brain. While all neurons depend on neurotransmitters such as dopamine to communicate (since neurotransmitters are responsible for transmitting signals between neurons in the brain), very few neurons actually produce dopamine.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Julio Martinez-Trujillo; Lena Palaniyappan; and Robert Nicolson
We are researching the neural circuits involved in human social interactions and how they are affected during mental disease, in particular the circuits involved in the pattern of eye movements (known as gaze behaviour) in social settings.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Chris McIntyre; and Adrian Owen 6612111
Patients requiring dialysis for kidney failure have poorer survival rates than many kinds of cancer and they suffer very high rates of cardiovascular mortality. One of the near-universal symptoms of hemodialysis (HD), where a patient's blood is filtered externally with a dialysis machine, is cognitive impairment. We have already demonstrated that cooling the washing fluid in the dialysis machine, known as dialysate, can help maintain blood pressure during dialysis and protect against further brain injury.
BrainsCAN , Western University; Derek Mitchell; Elizabeth Finger; and Richard Neufeld
In this project, we will uncover any existing interaction between violent media and the capacity for empathic reactions (known as trait empathy) at a neural level, as the foundational milestone for the kind of large-scale study discussed above.
The level of trait empathy varies by individual - we will explore whether exposure to violent media exacerbates the difficulties that those with low trait empathy already show in relating to the emotions of others
BrainsCAN , Western University; Marco Prado; Sylvian Williams; Vania Prado; and Salah El Mestikawy
Our overarching goal is to understand how the striatum can select between competing options to favor goal-directed behaviors or the establishment of habitual control. This will provide fundamental and transformational insights into the regulation of cognitive functions by co-transmission.
BrainsCAN, Western University; Vania Prado; Marco Prado; and Wataru Inoue
We have generated two mouse models in which we can control the Gq and Gisignalling in microglia during specific periods of brain development so we can explore the mechanisms behind abnormal microglial function.
Using our mouse models, we can stimulate these signalling pathways during the critical period of postnatal brain development to understand whether they impact adult cognition by influencing normal synaptic pruning. Mouse models of autism show issues with social memory, attention, sociability and hyperactivity. We will therefore assess those behaviors in our mouse models to determine if any autism-like behaviours are present.