New funding for SFU Institute for Neuroscience and Neurotechnology to investigate dementia risk

January 29, 2024

Simon Fraser University’s Institute for Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (INN) has received nearly $750,000 in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to investigate brain resilience in ageing and dementia.

Led by SFU Psychology professor Brianne Kent and SFU Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology professor Randy McIntosh, the project will build on a wealth of data from the BC Generations Project, British Columbia’s largest-ever health study.

The BCG study is tracking the health of nearly 30,000 participants over a 50-year period to help researchers understand how environment, lifestyle and genes contribute to cancer and other chronic diseases. The INN research group will work with a sub-cohort of these participants to collect detailed data on their brain health and dementia risk.

“We have a unique opportunity to integrate the existing lifestyle and health information for these participants with newly collected information from cognitive tests, genetic analyses, sleep assessments, and EEG measures of neural complexity,” say Kent and McIntosh.

Brain changes in dementia span from the cellular and molecular, to brain systems and their cognitive consequences. The unique social and cultural environment of an individual also affects how dementia develops. The INN uses a holistic approach to integrate these perspectives.

Recognizing that cognitive decline progresses differently in everyone, the INN is working to develop the computational modelling foundation to simulate the cells-to-systems changes associated with dementia in an individual, work funded through an NFRF Exploration grant.

The data collected through this new project will help refine this modelling by allowing researchers to identify key biological and social risk factors for dementia, and more effective and personalized ways to intervene.

“The BCG project was focused on prospective work in chronic disease, without a focus on the brain,” say Kent and McIntosh. “We will use the formidable foundation to add brain imaging and cognitive assessments to provide a truly comprehensive dataset that will give us a better idea of how brain and body interact to impart risk and resilience.”

SFU's Institute for Neuroscience and Neurotechnology is a cross-disciplinary research hub that empowers its members to engage in cutting-edge neuroscience research, training and community engagement. The INN is committed to data sharing and inclusivity, and actively working to establish open science principles at SFU.