Brain Canada is pleased to announce the awarding of a 2021 Platform Support Grant (PSG) to a team led by Dr. Signe Bray from the University of Calgary, including Dr. Catherine Lebel (UCalgary), Dr. Patricia Conrod (CHU Sainte-Justine) and Dr. Anne Wheeler (SickKids). Together with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, the CHU Sainte-Justine and SickKids, Brain Canada is awarding $5.75M to support the Canadian Pediatric Imaging Platform (C-PIP), a platform to support research in child brain health. 

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. Brain Canada will announce eight additional Platform Support Grants in the coming weeks, as part of a more than $30 million investment in brain research.

The brain undergoes tremendous changes from conception to birth and throughout life, and the way in which it develops is deeply affected by everything humans experience. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a brain imaging technique that is a powerful tool for measuring these changes in the brain. MRI studies can be particularly useful in helping elucidate how the brain responds to conditions like pre-term birth or concussions, which can lead to serious consequences in children.

The Canadian Pediatric Imaging Platform (C-PIP), a platform currently being developed by the Alberta Children’s Hospital-CAIR Program, SickKids and the new Centre Imagine at the CHU Sainte-Justine aims to leverage the power of MRI studies to understand brain development, with the goal of improving our understanding of children’s brain health.

This new platform is launching as a partnership between three leading pediatric MRI research centres and will eventually expand to include partner sites across the country,” says Brain Canada President and CEO, Dr. Viviane Poupon. “This type of pan-Canadian collaboration is at the heart of Brain Canada’s vision for brain science – a united research community working together to tackle the biggest challenges of our time.”

C-PIP aims to accelerate the pace of discovery in a number of ways. It will make it easier to recruit children across the country for research studies, increasing the amount of data available on brain development following injury, exposure or genetic alterations and how these disruptions in turn put children and youth at greater risk of behaviour or mental health challenges. It will also foster the adoption of an Open Science approach by facilitating data sharing between researchers. C-PIP will also develop training modules, with the goal of accelerating the adoption of new methods for collecting, processing and analyzing data.

“C-PIP will collect data from children from birth across adolescence and build a national high-precision reference sample that can be used to understand how brain disruptors alter neurodevelopment,” says Dr. Bray, associate professor at the Cumming School of Medicine. “We hope to demonstrate that this platform will be a powerful new tool to help us understand how concussions alter the brain and how brain development is disrupted in children with rare genetic conditions. We also want to show that, through cross-site collaboration, we can rapidly make new methods like Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Imaging (MRSI) available to the pediatric neuroimaging community.”

“The neurodevelopment research community at CHU Sainte-Justine is very excited to be partnering with researchers in Ontario and Alberta to accelerate our understanding of brain development and the impact of genetic and environmental factors that disrupt development.” – says Dr. Conrod, researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine and Full Professor at Department of Psychiatry and Addictology, Université de Montréal.

This project/program 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. Learn more about this project in Brain Canada’s directory of funded researchers.