Baycrest’s virtual brain project receives $6.3M from American foundation

Toronto, Canada, October 22, 2010 — The U.S.-based James S. McDonnell Foundation has awarded $6.3 million in new funding over the next three years to an international project led by Baycrest to create the world’s first functional, virtual brain.

Dr. Randy McIntosh talks about the virtual brain project (click here)

The project puts Canada in a global race to pull off a neuroscience feat that is comparable to decoding the human genome. The new funding is in addition to $7.5 million the prestigious American foundation provided five years ago to help launch the massive endeavour.

“On behalf of Baycrest and our international science team, we are energized by the continuing support and investment from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, who champion transformative research efforts,” said Dr. Randy McIntosh, project leader, senior scientist and vice-president of Research at Baycrest.

“The new funding helps our project move into its second phase and a step closer to creating a predictive modeling tool that will change the way we assess and rehabilitate brains that have suffered damage from stroke, epilepsy, or the early stages of Alzheimer’s.”

Susan Fitzpatrick, vice-president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation said “the Foundation is pleased to be able to contribute to this effort to bring cognitive neuroscience, computational biology, and clinical neurology together in an ambitious attempt to improve our abilities to alter the course of recovery for individuals with brain injuries.”

The project presents a massive informatics challenge that requires a team of scientists from Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia to upload thousands of patterns of brain imaging data from healthy individuals and patient groups into several large super computers. Once that work is complete, the virtual brain will deliver the same observable measurements or functioning patterns as a real brain.

The implications of this new tool for clinical interventions will be revolutionary. A clinician will be able to upload brain imaging data from their patient’s unique neural architecture after a stroke, for example, into the synthetic healthy brain model to see how it responds to the disruption of normal network patterns and attempts to re-stabilize. This will assist the clinician in determining the treatment interventions that will likely have the best outcomes for their patient.

In addition to the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Ontario Innovation Trust and Rx&D (Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies) are supporting the project.

Baycrest is a world-class developer of innovations in aging that enhance quality of life by optimizing physical and mental wellbeing.

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For more information on this release, please contact:
Kelly Connelly
Senior Media Officer