Brain Canada is pleased to announce the awarding of a 2021 Platform Support Grant (PSG) to Dr. Emma G. Duerden from Western University. Together with Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation and the Department of Paediatrics at the London Health Sciences Centre, Brain Canada is awarding $1.3M to support SPRINT: fnirS Platform foR braIn moNiToring, analytics and data repository, a platform to develop novel functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) technologies and software and apply them in patients with brain-based disorders.

Brain Canada’s Platform Support Grants are awarded to teams that are creating and/or enhancing centralized shared resources to increase access to equipment, expertise, data and protocols across research networks.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 of us will experience a brain disease, disorder, or injury in our lifetime. Currently, the diagnosis and monitoring of these conditions relies heavily on brain imaging methods like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). While being highly effective, these methods are limited in their use for clinical and research applications due to being sensitive to movements, which makes them difficult to use in certain groups such as children. Their availability is also limited – they are in high demand in hospitals – and they are costly to operate, requiring highly trained personnel and frequent upkeep. To enable real-time and long-term monitoring of brain conditions, brain imaging methods that are portable and low-cost are therefore needed.

Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive imaging method that allows for the monitoring of blood flow in the brain. Being inexpensive to operate, portable and unaffected by movement, fNIRS can be used to obtain longer measurements in real world settings, making it particularly well suited for patients who cannot undergo traditional brain imaging. However, fNIRS hasn’t yet become common in clinical and research practice because there is a lack of standardized methods for data analysis and issues with data quality remain.

With the SPRINT platform, the funded team will aim to support new and existing users of fNIRS technology for new applications, with a specific focus on clinical translation, and will provide assistance with data analysis. The hope is that this will lead to the development of new fNIRS biomarkers for future clinical trials and foster the creation of a community of practice by making the database open-source.

The goal of the SPRINT platform is to develop novel fNIRS technologies and software and apply them in patients with brain-based disorders,” says Dr. Duerden. “The ability to continuously monitor brain activity will open the door to a better understanding of individual brain health and can play a key role in precision medicine and rehabilitation.

This project has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada Foundation. To date, Health Canada has invested over $155 million through the CBRF which has been matched by Brain Canada Foundation and its donors and partners.