Research

Research at the uOttawa Brain and Mind Research Institute

There are 100 trillion connections between neurons in the human brain, grouped together into billions of distinct networks in which brain cells work together at the speed of thought. The brain can also be quite adaptive and malleable (plastic), which provides hope for therapies. However, very little is known about the interconnected webs of cells that form the brain's fundamental architecture.

How do brain cells work together? How does this change as a result of disease?

We seek to answer these questions and determine how protective, regenerative and restorative strategies—including pharmacotherapy, gene therapy, exercise and deep brain stimulation—improve brain circuit function in patients with brain disorders.

By understanding and manipulating brain connectivity in meaningful ways, we can develop effective treatments for neurological disorders.

The ultimate goal of uOBMRI is to incorporate and represent all brain- and mind-related activities in a cohesive fashion. In consultation with our stakeholders and the uOBMRI Scientific Council, the institute has generated a multiphase plan of action with the initial focus on the following areas of strength and expertise.

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease affects 10 million people worldwide. It is a devastating neurodegenerative condition that leads to slowness of movement and rigidity and, in a large proportion of patients, depression and dementia. Currently, while there are strategies to alleviate early motor symptoms, there is no cure...

Depression

Depression

There are many unknowns surrounding depression, which affects 121 million people worldwide and is the second leading cause of disability. It is believed that there are a number of biological, genetic and environmental factors that trigger depression in susceptible individuals. However, the way these factors combine to lead to depression is a mystery...

Neuromuscular disease

Neuromuscular Disease

Neuromuscular diseases (NMDs) represent a broad group of more than 150 genetic and acquired disorders, many causing disability and even premature death through progressive muscle wasting. Collectively, NMDs affect over 1 million people in Canada and the United States.

Neural dynamics

Neural dynamics

Central nervous system function is managed by sophisticated and dynamic sets of neuron networks and circuits that regulate brain function. These highly active and tightly controlled circuits in turn instruct all behavioural and cognitive outputs of the brain, including movement, mood and memory...

Stroke

Stroke

In 2015, the leading stroke researchers in Ottawa established the SRC-uOBMRI in order to systematically research the underlying mechanisms of injury, unravel regeneration processes, develop new approaches to optimize recovery and implement innovative rehabilitation processes at our partnering hospitals in Ottawa.  Among the successes of the consortium thus far:

  • Established a comprehensive center focused on the science of stroke and the mechanisms that contribute to successful functional recovery.
  • Recruited the best scientists from various domains within stroke research. Only recently we welcomed two highly sought after scientists: Dr. Baptiste Lacoste who is a specialist in vascular plasticity and Dr. Simon Chen a specialist in motor learning.
  • Facilitated the development of forward-looking treatments for stroke. In this regards, we are particularly proud of Drs. Dowlatshahi and Lum, uOBMRI members who played a leading role in the development of revolutionary treatment that reduces stroke-induced mortality rates by 50% while ensuring better quality of life to survivors. This is indeed a game changing treatment which will impact stroke care worldwide.
  • Develop RecoverNow, a progressive stroke rehabilitation approach
Genetics

Mental Health Services and Medical-Psychiatric Comorbidities

The Mental Health (MH) Pillar has two goals: 

  1. Getting the Right Care to People When They Need It: The health services researchers in the uOBMRI focus on creating exciting new methods to address problems in the MH care delivery system, working to improve access to evidence-based care for all ages of patients, no matter where they live. If our children, youth, and adults cannot access care, they cannot take advantage of new treatments that have been developed and our goal is to address this problem
  2. Improving the Health of Our Patients:  MH and physical health are intertwined and each affects the other. The uOBMRI researchers working on this goal are addressing problems such as the increased risk for heart disease in people who have chronic, severe MH problems or how exercise and diet affect MH problems, looking for new treatments and investigating mechanisms such as inflammation.
International partnerships

International Partnerships

International partnerships are an important part of the uOBMRI and its mandate to impact fundamental and clinical brain research. As such, we have launched collaborative international partnerships with these institutions—the majority of which have joint calls for research proposals...

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