Western receives $66 million federal research grant to reduce burden of brain disorders

Western University’s BrainsCAN initiative received a substantial $66 million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) today – the largest research grant in the university’s history – providing a significant boost to ongoing research in cognitive neuroscience and imaging at Western.

Already ranked amongst the best in the world in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging, Western excels in the breadth of cognitive, computational, clinical, technological, and translational approaches required for understanding and intervening in brain function.

Western will partner with researchers at McGill University, who also received CFREF funding, to leverage complementary expertise to better understand disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, and schizophrenia. The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) is also a partner in this initiative.

BrainsCAN’s goal is to reduce the burden of brain disorders, which affect nearly 3.6 million Canadians, diminishing quality of life and creating an enormous burden on society and on our health-care system. Neurological and psychiatric disorders together account for $22.7 billion per year in health-care costs in Canada.

“Understanding higher brain functions is central to the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric and neurological disease, for improving childhood learning and communication, for optimizing neurosurgical interventions and for the development of intelligent devices,” said Adrian Owen, Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging and Co-Scientific Director, BrainsCAN. “To do this, we must aggressively pursue new technological innovations – a key strength at Western.”

Brain impairments create deficits in memory, attention, knowledge, problem solving, and communication, affecting how those affected interact with everything and everyone around them.

“This funding will help BrainsCAN researchers radically transform our understanding of brain disorders and deliver effective solutions to the grand challenge of maintaining brain function across the lifespan,” said Lisa Saksida, Co-Scientific Director, BrainsCAN.  “With our partners at McGill, Western researchers will continue to make game-changing discoveries that benefit the health, social and financial well-being of Canadians.”

Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging at Western, which includes the Brain & Mind Institute and Centre for Functional & Metabolic Mapping, involves researchers from seven faculties across campus including, Social Science, Science, Health Sciences, Engineering, Arts & Humanities, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and Ivey Business School. Most researchers are jointly appointed in at least two departments in different faculties. Joint appointments are a fundamental component of Western’s cross-disciplinary strategy, which has resulted in one of the most scientifically diverse groups of researchers working in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging in the world.

“This investment reaffirms the longstanding excellence of Western’s transdisciplinary research community on the national scale, particularly in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and imaging, where a world-class team has come together to solve complex problems,” said Western’s President Amit Chakma. “We are extremely grateful to the Government of Canada for its vote of confidence and the opportunity to advance this important science.”

More details are available at: www.uwo.ca/brainscan/

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced a total of $900 million in CFREF funding to researchers in a variety fields across Canada today. More information on these grants is available at the Canada First Research Excellence Fund website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Ledgley, Senior Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85283, sledgley@uwo.ca

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