Message from Dr. Donald Stuss, President and Scientific Director of OBI

The brain. It drives our intelligence, our feelings, our ability to interact, to walk and talk, remember the good times, plan for the future, and care for ourselves and each other. It is the core of our lives and our world.

But we know that one in three Canadians will suffer from a neurological or psychiatric disorder or injury during their lifetime. What’s more, 38 per cent of all the years we lose to disability and death are from brain disorders. In Ontario alone, the annual cost of mental illness is $39 billion – representing just a fraction of the cost of all brain disorders – and the prevalence of brain disorders is rising, especially among our children and young adults.

Three years ago, a group of world-leading researchers met to explore these pressing issues and Ontario’s potential to accelerate improvements in brain health.

They found that countries everywhere are investing in the burgeoning field of neuroscience, bringing together their leading minds with resources that can help improve the health of our brains. In the midst of this landscape, Ontario has emerged as a leader in the study of brain imaging, genetics, neurodegenerative diseases, deep brain stimulation, learning, memory and stroke.

Our province is home to some of the world’s most accomplished brain researchers and clinicians and they are transforming the future health of Ontarians.

The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) was established in 2010 by the Government of Ontario. Its mandate is to enhance our province’s position as a world-leading centre for brain research, translation and innovation.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

Our world is on the cusp of a revolution in brain research.  New imaging technologies mean we can see and understand the brain better than ever before.  Advances in genetics, stem cell research and our ability to regulate nerve cell activity mean there’s real hope we can one day repair brain disorders.  And new research into neuroplasticity shows that we can train and strengthen our brain in ways we never thought possible.

We have entered the century of the brain. For the first time in our history, mankind is on the threshold of truly understanding how the human brain works.

I invite you to learn more about the exciting steps OBI is taking to deepen that understanding.

We’re starting with brain research,

We met last year with 250 brain researchers across Ontario who brought forward seven crucial themes for brain research:  addiction, neurodevelopmental disorders including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, depression, epilepsy, neurodegeneration and traumatic brain injury.

Since then, we’ve been working with partners across Ontario to bring these research themes to life. All of them are using our integrated discovery (ID) program model. This is a new concept designed to create seamless collaboration among patients, caregivers, clinicians, researchers and industry in investigating key disorders of the brain. Learn more about the ID program model.

So far we’ve funded three ID programs focused on autism and ADHD, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and we continue to look for ways to move our other research programs forward.

Our ID programs already support more than 80 research positions. They help improve diagnoses and treatments, and help commercialize new products that will improve the brain health of Ontarians.

harnessing our data,

Critical to the success of our ID programs is the Brain Centre for Ontario Data Exploration (Brain-CODE). This is an informatics-based platform that will allow researchers and clinicians to upload, store and access their research data centrally. Then – often for the first time – they can make comparisons between information from diverse institutions, patient populations and a range of neurological disorders and diseases.

Brain-CODE will combine data in an entirely new way that helps us understand patterns across disorders. This will in turn enable us to understand the causes of brain disorders, the relationships between them, and why some individuals respond to treatment while others do not. Brain-CODE will also serve as an invaluable tool for clinical trials, allowing us to rapidly recruit patients with similar characteristics, and creating a conduit to resolve new hypotheses about brain disorders with effective, patient-centred interventions.

While OBI’s ID programs give us the immediate benefit of diagnosing and treating brain disorders more effectively, Brain-CODE will also teach us how to maximize brain function and prevent brain disorders from happening in the future. Learn more about Brain-CODE.

and training the next generation of researchers and clinicians

At the core of innovation are knowledge translation and capacity building. OBI’s new Experiential Education Initiative (EEI) is aimed at developing the entrepreneurial and management skills of neuroscientists in Ontario. Learn more about EEI.

As the first program launched under the banner of EEI, OBI Entrepreneurs is a collaboration with the Ontario Centres of Excellence that encourages Ontario’s neuroscientists to take their research to market.  The program includes targeted training from OBI and is supported by regional mentorship networks.  Learn more about OBI Entrepreneurs.

to turn knowledge into products that improve health.

Commercialization is a critical step in translating research ideas into better patient care. From the very outset, OBI’s projects are designed to create a more seamless flow of knowledge among patients, caregivers, clinicians, researchers and industry. How? By ensuring all of these groups help shape research from the start.

Commercialization is even built into our translational approach to research. OBI has developed “innovation teams” to ensure that its ID program research will be translated quickly into better diagnostics, treatments and care for Ontarians with brain disorders.  Learn more about how OBI is bringing research to market.

OBI is on the path to better brain health for all Ontarians. My hope is that you will join us on this exciting and urgent journey.

To find out how you can get involved, email us or explore our website.

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