Austen Milnerwood, a neuroscientist at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital), has been awarded a grant through the Bell Let’s Talk – Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program for his team’s research on bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder, a chronic psychiatric illness associated with serious disability and much-increased mortality, affects 1-3% of the adult population. The disease starts during adolescence and has a life-long course. While many living with the disorder can lead fulfilling lives, they require careful clinical support and care, which can take years to optimize.
“There is a need for faster treatment selection, and ideally new, safer, clinical treatments to help these patients,” notes Milnerwood. “To try and provide this, we are taking a personalized medicine approach that will help us better understand the biology of bipolar disorder. Our pan-Canadian team brings together neurologist and geneticist Dr Guy Rouleau (The Neuro) and psychiatrist Dr Martin Alda (Dalhousie University) to collect patient blood samples, use them to make brain cells from bipolar individuals, and see how they differ from those made from non-bipolar individuals.”
In this way we can see how one person’s clinical history relates to neuronal changes and drug responses in their own neurons. This work may uncover new therapies and define biological signatures – or biomarkers – that predict a patient’s response to therapy. This would speed-up treatment selection, reduce suicide rates, accelerate recovery, and remove years of suffering for many patients.”
Launched in January 2021, the Bell Let’s Talk -Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program is a $4,190,000 initiative which supports the development of innovative solutions to provide effective, sustainable, and accessible mental health care for everyone in Canada.
The Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program recipient teams include some of the best researchers from across the country in the mental health field.
- A Randomized Sham-Controlled Trial of Accelerated Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation for Treatment Resistant Depression – team led by Daniel Blumberger, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Watch
- AID-ME: Artificial Intelligence in Depression – Medication Enhancement: A Randomized, Patient and Rater Blinded, Active-Controlled Trial of a Deep-Learning Enabled Clinical Decision Aid for Personalized Depression Treatment Selection – team led by Manuela Ferrari, Centre de recherche de l’hôpital Douglas – Douglas Hospital Research Centre Watch
- BEAM: Building Emotional Awareness and Mental Health in Parenting. An app-based intervention to improve postpartum mental health and support children’s brain development – team led by Catherine Lebel and Lianne Tomfohr-Madsen, University of Calgary Watch
- Optimization of Prefrontal Theta-Burst Stimulation to Treat Depression: A Bench to First-in-Human Study – team led by Tarek Rajji, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Watch
The projects were selected following a rigorous peer-reviewed grant competition that engaged an international panel in evaluating projects grounded in scientific excellence and with the potential to address gaps in mental health research.
The Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research 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. To date, Health Canada has invested over $130 million through the CBRF which has been matched by Brain Canada and its donors and partners.