Neuroscience funding to provide common platform for Canadian researchers
Published Monday, February 19, 2018 12:39PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 19, 2018 6:34PM EST
Ottawa has announced a new fund to connect all Canadian brain scientists.
Fifteen universities across the country doing research into the hundreds of different types of brain diseases and disorders will join the $10 million platform.
The Brain Canada Foundation said the federal funding will allow the creation of the Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform, which will be based at Montreal's Neurological Hospital.
“It's an important thing to invest in. The more we get to know about the brain, the better we can increase the quality of life for Canadians,” said LaSalle-Emard-Verdun MP David Lametti.
Montreal is at the forefront of brain research but it has always been difficult to share and access data from other labs across the country.
Researchers who work on everything from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's will now be able to work together.
Dr. Alan Evans, who will be the scientific director of this new platform, said developing a full understanding of how a brain works is not something any one institution or laboratory will be able to do on its own.
"We've crossed the Rubicon. We've gone beyond individual lab science into large-scale integrated science across a country, indeed internationally. We make a lot more progress as a community than as labs doing their own thing," said Dr. Evans.
"Oftentimes it's a lot of duplication, same ideas keep on reappearing. This way everyone is up to speed on what's going on."
So little is currently known about the brain.
“We know 1 per cent of what's going on in the brain. It's a vast unknown territory and you need the kind of scenery that the CONP builds to get at these questions which have been very, very difficult to address,” said Evans.
There are more than 1000 brain diseases and disorders and a lot of commonalities among them. Researchers say by sharing information, they'll have a better chance of making breakthroughs.
These breakthroughs will affect the lives of the estimated 3.6 million Canadians with neurological conditions ranging from schizophrenia to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and ALS.
Opening up data comes with ethical issues too, something researchers are discussing, for example:
“What is the best way that we can work with data that is still ethical and respects people's privacy but is still giving us information that we can share and use,” said Inez Jabalpurwala, president of the Brain Canada Foundation.
Brain researchers are in Montreal Monday and Tuesday to discuss this new platform, and determine how to best get from looking at data to treating patients much more quickly.
The new platform will be based at Montreal's Neurological Institute and Hospital, connecting labs across the country and eventually the world.