Towards a learning healthcare system through collaboration

There is no question that the looming grey tsunami of the ageing population in Ontario has significant implications with regards to healthcare services. A key concept which is emerging is the opportunity to foster and maintain brain health across the lifespan where optimal performance and quality is sustained. While much focus has been on the attempts to intervene once brain disease has taken hold, progress has been slow.

Clearly, new thinking and leveraging new opportunities will be necessary given the implications of an ageing at-risk population. The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) is leading the charge to engage a learning healthcare system by bringing research to the community and fostering best practices in data science. The emerging research in data science and using so-called ‘real-world data’ in effect pushes the boundaries of research from the high-end hospital-based system of formal clinical trials, towards a process of continuous quality improvement in the community, where research becomes normal activity fostering learning and refining best-in-class care.

In effect, we are striving to make the community the laboratory and the healthcare system itself, the engine of innovation and optimization. The pieces of this learning healthcare system are in place and while the integration of the various pieces is complex, data-driven approaches are where new knowledge will be discovered, deployed and assessed in service of maintained health spans. As we transition towards applying an integrated approach to keeping our brains healthy, we are implementing better ways to communicate our work. The renewed edition of our Brainnovations newsletter helps visualize our projects and achievements in connection to relevant outputs that move us closer to our goal.

By bringing together partners in neuroscience, healthcare, data science and industry, OBI is accelerating the pathway towards improved brain health and enhancing the health spans of people living in Ontario. The work we do and the steps we take forward are strengthening a foundation where we can equip ourselves in preparation for the large wave of healthcare challenges to come.

Connecting Research Back to the Community

Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) believes connecting its research programs with patients and their advocates is critical to having relevant and high impact programs.

OBI has worked with each of its Integrated Discovery Programs (ID) to form five separate Patient Advisory Committees (PACs) that consist of advisors from various neurological health charities (e.g., Alzheimer Society of Ontario or Autism Ontario), researchers, caregivers, and patients. The purpose of these committees is to bring the patient voice to our ID Programs, promote knowledge exchange between patients, advocates, caregivers and researchers, discuss key issues for patients, and connect the research back to their communities faster. Continue reading “Connecting Research Back to the Community”

Brain-CODE Offers First Open Data Access

Ontario has one of the highest concentrations of brain researchers anywhere in the world. But researchers in this community largely worked in isolation and tended not to share ideas or data. The Ontario Brain Institute’s (OBI’s) Integrated Discovery Programs changed this and brought large groups of researchers together to better understand and treat brain disorders. This collaborative approach led to the idea of standardizing data and housing it in a shared space where it is curated, analyzed and shared. This ensures that the data are collected in the same manner, making it easier to share and accelerate discovery. Continue reading “Brain-CODE Offers First Open Data Access”

Enhancing the Neuroscience Research System through Strategic Collaborations

Brain disorders affect one in three Ontarians and the direct cost to the province exceeds $4 billion each year. The indirect costs from work missed and the emotional costs for families are incalculable and create an urgency to address brain health by means of innovation and translational research that can improve the quality of life for people living with brain disorders. Continue reading “Enhancing the Neuroscience Research System through Strategic Collaborations”

Another side of cerebral palsy: the genetic story

Photo credit: Veronica Rousseau

By: Shaalee Sone, Outreach Intern, Ontario Brain Institute

In the age of genomics we are racing to uncover what our genes say about us. If we had the ability to read our genetic code and learn what’s in store, we could play to our strengths and prepare for our limitations.

One obstacle to deciphering the information in our genes is knowing what patterns to look for in specific genes. For some disorders, like Huntington’s disease, clinicians know exactly what gene to look at and how to read the signs. Other diseases, like cancer, are too diverse to find a single gene pattern; instead, we subdivide cancer into sets and look for gene patterns in each set.

Continue reading “Another side of cerebral palsy: the genetic story”

Connecting Ontario’s Strengths For Concussion Research and Care

By: Johnathan Tran, Informatics & Analytics Intern, Ontario Brain Institute  

It’s easy to take for granted how important a healthy brain is until it isn’t.  Made up of billions of interconnected cells, the human brain, encased in a solid boney skull, is remarkably resilient but this does not make it immune to injury. When the head is shaken or jarred, the brain can collide with the skull, damaging its cells and causing a cascade of negative symptoms. Continue reading “Connecting Ontario’s Strengths For Concussion Research and Care”

Sharing Data For Better And More Efficient Science

By: Teige Bourke, Outreach Intern, Ontario Brain Institute

Brain disorders are not straightforward. Disorders like depression result from a complex interplay between an individual’s experiences and their biology. Understanding the underlying mechanisms requires a lot of information that can only be extracted through research that uses many different techniques with large groups of people. Continue reading “Sharing Data For Better And More Efficient Science”