Baycrest and Berkeley join forces to present the 20th Annual Rotman Research Institute Conference

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2010

The Frontal Lobes
World’s top brain experts meet in Toronto
March 22-26, 2010

Toronto – Two of the world’s premiere research institutes in cognitive neuroscience have joined forces to host a global conference on the brain’s frontal lobes – March 22-26 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Baycrest and the University of California at Berkeley will present the five-day conference, which comes around every 10 years and features scientists from around the world who are advancing our understanding about the role of the human frontal lobes in aging (from childhood to late life), the devastating disorders that can disrupt this highly evolved but vulnerable region of the brain, and the way forward for therapeutic interventions and neurorehabilitation.

The frontal lobes were once regarded as “the big conductor” of the brain – overbearing and calling all the shots! Situated behind our forehead, they are a big part of what distinguishes humans from other primates. Our ability to reason, plan, prioritize, problem-solve, empathize, understand others’ intentions, control our impulses, pay attention, understand humor, use language and think creatively, are largely associated with our frontal lobes.

But the big conductor reputation is undergoing a “rethink” with growing scientific evidence that the frontal lobes have a role that is less heavy-handed and more like the key player in a chamber orchestra. The frontal lobes essentially set the brain system up to work in an integrated manner. And when things break down, there’s a good chance the frontal lobes are involved.

“In the last 10 years we’ve advanced our understanding of how the frontal lobes are made up and how they work with the entire brain to integrate thought, behaviour and emotions,” said Dr. Donald Stuss, a senior scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and co-chair of the conference with colleague Dr. Robert Knight from the University of California at Berkeley.

“Exciting new experimental findings are beginning to reveal how human thought and action unfolds with sub-second precision,” added Dr. Knight, director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at Berkeley. “These findings provide the roadmap for understanding both normal human behaviour and how it goes awry in neurological, psychiatric and developmental disorders.”

Drs. Stuss and Knight are world-renowned frontal lobes experts who produced the last global conference on the frontal lobes 10 years ago in Toronto. They say the last decade has been a gold mine of new knowledge and given rise to emerging fields such as social neuroscience, neuroeconomics, neuroscience and the law, neuromarketing, neurodevelopment and neurorehabilitation.

Scientists are making tremendous progress in understanding how aging affects the frontal lobes and how genes and environment may influence how this process unfolds differently for each individual. The frontal lobes are also implicated in several disorders, including schizophrenia, ADD and ADHD, sociopathic personality, depression and frontotemporal dementia (an insidious brain disease which can strike adults as young as their 40s).

The 2010 Frontal Lobes Conference will feature three keynote speakers and over 40 internationally-recognized presenters. It is sponsored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Centre for Stroke Recovery and HSBC.

Media wishing to attend the conference can register ahead by calling (416) 785-2432, or sign in at the “media desk” during the week.

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For more information on this press release or to receive a conference press kit ahead of the event, please contact:

Kelly Connelly
Senior Media Officer
Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest
416-785-2432
kconnelly@baycrest.org