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Dr. Christopher Bowie – Action-Based Cognitive Remediation (2013-2014)

Christopher BowieDr. Christopher Bowie (Queen’s University) is the 2013 winner of the Healthy Minds Canada/Pfizer/Sun Life Financial Research Award.

With funds from the Healthy Minds Canada/Sun Life Financial/Pfizer Canada Research Award, Dr. Bowie will expand his efforts by delivering Action-Based Cognitive Remediation to a large sample of those with depression and measure changes in workplace stress, work skills, and long-term employment.

Action-Based Cognitive Remediation involves helping people develop long-term coping strategies for everyday stressors, translating those strategies into behaviours they can apply in their day-to-day lives.

Click here for more information about this study.

Press Coverage: Psychologist’s work recognized, The Whig (Kingston)


Ryan McLaughlin – HMC Children’s Prize in Mental Health (2013-2014)*

“…my research examines the effects of maternal separation or neglect during the first 10 days of life on the stress circuitry in the developing brain, maturation of the amygdala, and the expression of fear in neonatal rats. The goal of my research is to determine whether increasing endocannabinoid activity during this early developmental period can prevent the structural, functional, and behavioral changes produced by early-life stress. These studies hope to enhance our understanding of the effects of early-life stress on brain development, offer insight into how this type of stress may confer vulnerability to stress-related disorders later in life, and could point to the endocannabinoid system as a new therapeutic target for early intervention in at-risk individuals.”

Read the full abstract here.

*Ryan McLaughlin’s study will be taking place in the USA, and as such funds from this Canadian award will not be used in the study.

Dr. Hiroyoshi Takeuchi – Investigating brain structural differences in treatment-resistant schizophrenia and ultra-resistant schizophrenia (2013-2014)

takeuchiApproximately 30% of patients with schizophrenia do not optimally respond to antipsychotics, which is called treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS). Clozapine is a unique antipsychotic drug, which has been demonstrated to have greater efficacy for TRS, while mechanisms of action remain unknown. Nonetheless, 40-70% of patients with TRS do not adequately respond to even clozapine, which is called ultra-resistant schizophrenia (URS). The human brain consists of two main components: one is gray matter composed of neurons; the other is white matter composed of glial cells and myelinated axons. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique, enables the measurement of white matter in humans. White matter abnormalities have been recently found to play an important role in the biological mechanism of schizophrenia. The proposed study aims to investigate white matter in TRS and URS. Fifteen patients with TRS and 15 patients with URS will be included. Brain imaging will take place on MRI with DTI. Our hypothesis is that patients with TRS and URS will demonstrate significantly different white matter structure. We believe that the results could shed light on the mechanism of clozapine, and provide guidance for the treatment of URS.

CIHRDr. Takeuchi’s study is funded by the Healthy Minds Canada Prize In Children’s Mental Health Award, made possible by the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

Bipolar Disorder Research 2.0: Web Technologies for Research Capacity and Knowledge Translation (2014)

crestDr. Erin Michalak will be using funds from Healthy Minds Canada to help create an Open Access article that is currently under review by the BMC psychiatry journal on our social media and web 2.0 initiatives entitled, “Bipolar Disorder Research 2.0: Web Technologies for Research Capacity and Knowledge Translation”.

We expect this to become available in early July, 2014.

You can view a digital representation of Dr. Michalak’s knowledge exchange event held in October 2013 by clicking here. This will continued to be shared with research participants as she continues to develop and test her online Quality of Life tool.

Click here to check out Dr. Michalak’s online self-management tool kit for bipolar disorder.

Dr. P.D. Arnold – Glutamate Neurotransmission in OCD: Genetic Study of a Candidate Biological System (2006-2010)

Spit for Science_imageDr. P.D. Arnold is currently analyzing glutamate system genes associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by collecting DNA samples from children with OCD. By collaborating with researchers at Wayne State and University of Michigan, he plans to genotype 200 pediatric OCD cases and 200 normal, medication-free controls. He will be applying targeted resequencing to follow up on his initial candidate gene results for glutamate genes and OCD. Specifically, Dr. Arnold will work with The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) and use next-generation sequencing methods to sequence the candidate genes, SLC1A1, GRIN2B and DLGAP3, to his sample of children with OCD. Through this method, a broader range of genetic variants will be identified, including rare and common tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).  Dr. Arnold hopes that further progress in this work will allow his team to identify susceptible genes for OCD that will result in improvements for individuals with OCD and their families. Read Dr. Arnold’s full report here.

Electrophysiological Assessment of Sensory Integration in Autism (2006-2007)

autism-studyDr. Dave Saint-Amour is a researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre and a professor of psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. His research focuses on the neurophysiology of the human visual system and sensory integration in individuals with neurodevelopment disorders, including autism.

With the financial support of Health Minds, Dr. Saint-Amour and his team have initiated a research project to test the hypothesis that many of the developmental difficulties that children with autism have are due to an inability in their brain to combine their senses into a multisensory coherent experience, which rely on complex brain processes. For instance, in a healthy brain, the moving lips that we see, and the words that we hear, have a meaningful link and help us to perceive speech. However, in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) this deficit in sensory integration may be a contributing factor to deficits in speech perception. Indeed the multisensory speech integration ability is crucial to effective communication, and the appropriate development of this capacity greatly impacts a child’s ability to successfully navigate educational and social settings.

Download Lay Summary

Success in Motion (2006-2010)

Dr Erin MichalakIn 2006, Dr. Erin Michalak won an HMC new investigator award for her project Wireless Mood Monitoring in Bipolar Disorder. The results of this study found that specially programmed mobile devices may increase an individual’s daily monitoring of their mood and lead to interventions that could potentially avoid a relapse.

Building on these successful findings, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is currently supporting a $750,000 4-year multi-site grant that is focusing on Bipolar Disorder (BD) in the aging population. Over two-hundred participants, with a BD diagnosis of 10 years or more, are being recruited from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto and asked to report on their current mood, medication adherence and recent life events, twice daily. GPS and tablet-type devices (e.g. iPad) are being used to track participant self-report measures.

With this new research, more powerful and personalized tools can be developed; tools that would allow individuals to self-manage this disorder and improve their quality of life.

canadian institutes of health research

This BD study, funded by the CIHR Social Dimensions of Aging panel, was made possible by HMC foundation funding and the pilot data generated from HMC’s grant.

*Dr. Michalak has continued research in this area; future studies will be updated here.

Download a summary of this study here.

Follow Erin’s research on Facebook 

Connections Between Nicotine and Schizophrenia (2004-2008)

Approximately 85-95% of people living with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes; a smoking rate nearly three times higher than that found in the general population.

dr christensen bruceIn the HMC funded study, Nicotine-induced increases in neural inhibition as a mechanism of acute symptom attenuation among patients with Schizophrenia, Dr. Bruce Christensen explores the causes of smoking amongst people living with schizophrenia. This was done by examining the brain`s response to nicotine (i.e. neurophysiological impact) and the psychosocial factors (e.g., social contact, free time, etc.) associated with smoking.

In this study, participants were asked to abstain from smoking for one night. Their psychiatric symptoms and brain activity were measured the next day using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Participants were then randomly given either a nicotine patch or a patch with no active ingredient before undergoing a re-evaluation of their symptoms and brain activity. In addition to this test, researchers developed, validated and asked study participants to complete a self-reporting instrument to assess the psychosocial factors associated with smoking.

Some results from this study suggest that nicotine increases brain activity and decreases negative emotions in people with schizophrenia. Study participants also reported that smoking improves their cognition; a well-documented impairment with schizophrenia. Other psychosocial factors identified were very similar to those reported by the general population suggesting that the same smoking cessation approaches may be effectively employed with people living with schizophrenia.

This study provides a strong foundation for future research to further explore the causes and impacts of smoking in people living with schizophrenia.

Download the final report of the study here.

Funding Research in Children’s Mental Health (2011-2013)

Healthy Minds Canada’s Children’s Mental Health Research Award was offered in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Through this opportunity, HMC offered awards to the top ranking children’s mental health research projects from CIHR’s Fall 2011-2013 competition. Through this partnership, HMC has supported the best peer-reviewed research in Canada.

These awards are made possible through RBC’s Kite for Kids campaign and matching donations made by guests at HMC’s 2011 Silver Dinner. A gracious thank you to all our contributors for helping to find the best treatments and services possible for our children.