New professorship focuses on new treatments for autism

October 29, 2015

Sam Doesburg, a neuroscientist and an expert in magnetoencephalographic (MEG) brain imaging, is the inaugural holder of the Callum Frost Professorship in Translational Research in Autism at Simon Fraser University.

Doesburg comes to SFU from the University of Toronto, where he carried out research at the Hospital for Sick Children on how functional connectivity among brain regions is related to childhood cognitive development.

Through his professorship, Doesburg will investigate the potential for new treatments that could improve the lives of those with autism. “My hope is that my work fills a critical gap, as after receiving a diagnosis of autism, children and their families are often left without a clear roadmap for effective treatment, and with too few options for ameliorating the difficulties associated with living with autism.”

Doesburg will assess which treatments can potentially induce changes in the brain and behaviour in people with autism. He hopes to determine if neuroimaging can reveal different ‘sub-types’ of autism that might be susceptible to particular treatment interventions, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

HBOT increases the intake of oxygen, reduces inflammation and increases oxygen concentration in the brain and is thought to improve the lives of those with autism.

Peter Ruben, associate dean for research in the Faculty of Science says: “SFU operates the only civilian hyper/hypobaric chamber in Canada, so we’re delighted to bring Sam’s expertise to the mix. Ideally his research will pave the way for future work on other brain disorders and injuries.”

Surrey’s Central City Brewing and Distillery President Darryll Frost and his wife, Lee, whose son Callum has Pervasive Development Disorder, a type of autism, are funding the professorship. Their hunch that HBOT has been key to Callum’s improved behavior has led them to support further research in this area.

Doesburg will be based at the SFU Surrey campus and will also carry out research at SFU’s hyper/hypobaric chamber at the Burnaby campus.

Watch the story on Global TV.