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Brain Health Model at the Macroscale

Official title: An integrative brain health model for the individual prediction of cognitive decline

Timeline: 2018-2022

Summary: The concept of “brain health” has been proposed to capture the relationship between the state of the brain and cognitive fitness. We propose to model this brain health by looking at various elements of neuronal health. We further wish to link brain health to cognition, in the context of healthy aging and probable Alzheimer's disease. We wish to test the hypothesis that as brain health declines, so does cognition. This type of integrative work is missing in the field, and we feel confident, using large scale databases and state of the art mathematical modelling and machine learning approaches, that we can produce a model which will predict decline years ahead of diagnostic. This would provide individuals with sufficient time to take measures to improve their general health and lifestyle in order to maintain brain health and cognition.

Primary investigator: S. Duchesne

In collaboration with: N. Doyon (U. Laval), Kevin Whittingstall (U. Sherbrooke)

Funded by: Canadian Institutes for Health Research

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Official title: Le Consortium pour l'Identification précoce de la Maladie d'Alzheimer - Québec

Timeline: 2013-2023

Summary: The Consortium for the Early Identification of Alzheimer’s Disease (CIMA-Q) brings together more than 90 Quebec researchers and clinicians who share the common goal of advancing knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. More specifically, our mission is to develop tools to detect the first signs of its appearance. The early identification of Alzheimer’s disease greatly increases the likelihood of successful interventions, thus improving the quality of life for seniors struggling with this terrible condition.

Principal investigator: Sylvie Belleville (Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal)

In collaboration with: S. Duchesne and Marie-Jeanne Kergoat, co-directors (Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal)

Funded by: Fonds de recherche Québec-Santé and partners



Official title: An AI-ready infrastructure for data management and processing

Timeline: 2022-2024

Summary:  As the amount of data that we require and have access to has ballooned (now over 60,000 participants and more than 200,000 medical imagines) our group needs to overhaul our previous data housing and processing infrastructure (MEDICS 1.0) to a modern, containerized, micro service-based architecture (MEDICS 2.0). Able to house, store, manage, and process this data in a scalable and automated fashion, the infrastructure will operate with minimal administrator oversight, embedding quality control and assurance functions at every step. To achieve this goal we will leverage the strengths already in place at U. Laval, namely the Center for Data Valorization, its dedicated team of specialists VALÉRIA, and the collaborative research platform on health data PULSAR.

Principal investigator: S. Duchesne

Funded by: Vice-rectorat, recherche et création, U. Laval



Official title: Ensuring mission success and optimal aging: disentangling the impact of simulated microgravity on brain health

Timeline: 2018-2023

Summary: Optimal brain health is necessary to maintain a high level of brain function. Prolonged exposure to the space environment however has an impact on brain health which is similar, while due to different causes, than that due to sub-optimal aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s. We aim to test the effect of inactivity in the CIHR-CSA bed rest study, which will simulate the lack of gravity in space, by tracking various metrics obtained from magnetic resonance imaging. Further, we will determine if physicial activity can help alleviate some of these effects. Finally, we will track both impact on cognition. The knowledge gained will be useful for future space exploration as well as present-day care of our at-risk elderly population.

Principal investigator: S. Duchesne

In collaboration with: Carol Hudon (U. Laval), Megan O'Connell (U. Saskatchewan), and G. Iaria (U. Calgary)

Funded by: Canadian Space Agency and Canadian Institutes for Health Research

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Brain Health Model at the Microscale

Official title: Computational neuroscience modelling of cognitively healthy aging and Alzheimer's disease

Timeline: 2022-2026

Summary: It is well established that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is multifactorial, with evidence suggesting an intricate interplay of genetic, health, and lifestyle risk factors accruing with aging into a cascade of dysfunctions. This results not only in the aberrant production and accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins, but also in reduced energy metabolism and neurovascular coupling, leading to a surge in inflammation, synaptic dysfunction, and neuronal death, all resulting in cognitive impairment. At the microscale (cellular level), the exact interplay between these factors in time and space remains elusive. We propose to build a computational neuroscience model at the microscale capturing essential components of aging and AD, validate its parameters in observational studies, and test its predictive power in the context of a non-pharmacological clinical trial. Such model will be an invaluable tool to test multiple hypotheses in silico and personalize interventions.

Primary investigator: S. Duchesne

In collaboration with: N. Doyon and T.H. Chen (U. Laval)

Funded by: Canadian Institutes for Health Research



Official title: The Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration and Aging

Timeline: 2016-2024

Summary: 350+ clinicians and researchers throughout Canada came together to form CCNA in 2014 with the goal of accelerating progress in research on age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia.

CCNA entered a Phase II of activities in 2019. Based on their area of specialization, CCNA’s researchers are divided into 19 teams throughout Canada, and are working in the areas of prevention, treatment, and quality of life. They draw on the data of national platforms, and are supported by cross-cutting programs, who assist teams in overarching aspects of research such as training and capacity building, engagement of people with lived experience, knowledge translation, ethical, legal, and social issues, and consideration of sex and gender, stigma, and indigenous peoples.

Principal Investigator: Howard Chertkow (U. Toronto)

In collaboration with: S. Duchesne (Platform 3 Leader)

Funded by: Canadian Institutes for Health Research and partners



Official title: Brain health model and simulator: image synthesis, visualization and processing

Timeline: 2020-2025

Summary: We propose solutions to multiple science and engineering (S&E) problems, namely as pertains to: a) missing modalities (e.g. positron emission tomography scans), via image synthesis; b) interpretability of simulator output, via image generation; and c) a significant increase in data, via a flexible image processing capacity. 

Principal investigator: S. Duchesne

Funded by: National Science and Engineering Research Council


Brain Health in Astronauts

Official title: The Astronaut Brain Health Data Mining Project

Timeline: 2020-2023

Summary: Spaceflight is harsh: astronauts are exposed to radiation and microgravity, isolated and confined for weeks and months. Eventually their cognition, sensation, movement, and coordination changes, affecting their performance. We will study brain images from previous astronauts to determine how their brain health was affected by the spaceflight using methods that we developed to track the effect of aging. An increased understanding of the impact of space travel will allow us to better evaluate the effect of countermeasures, which could be applied here on Earth to different clinical population, including patients affected by brain degeneration such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Principal investigator: S. Duchesne

In collaboration with: G. Iaria (U. of Calgary)

Funded by: Canadian Space Agency

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