Distinguished Population Neuroscientist joins Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute

Jan. 11, 2010

Dr. Tomas Paus will study the impact of genes and environment on cognitive and brain health across the lifespan

Toronto – A prominent researcher and pioneer in the emerging field of “population neuroscience” has joined Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and its world-renowned memory and aging science team.

Dr. Tomas Paus is a Czech-born scientist and brain mapping expert who is conducting large population-based studies in Canada and the U.K. examining brain maturation and cognitive development from childhood to adolescence to understand how environmental and genetic factors shape the human brain and cognition. He is the Joint Baycrest and University of Toronto Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair, and co-director of the novel Toronto Trans-generational Brain and Body Centre (TTBBC) – the first centre of its kind in North America.

Prior to joining Baycrest on Jan. 1, 2010, Dr. Paus was professor and chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and director of the Brain and Body Centre (which he founded) at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. as well as adjunct professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal where he spent 14 years prior to moving to the U.K.

“Dr. Paus basically created the field of population neuroscience, where the essential goal is to use state-of-the-art neuroimaging technology to understand the complex interaction between environment and genes that sculpt the healthy brain,” said Dr. Randy McIntosh, interim vice-president of Research at Baycrest and director of the Rotman Research Institute. “His work engages the community at large, giving them the opportunity to contribute directly to the research goals.”

As co-director of the TTBBC, Dr. Paus and his research team will recruit multigenerational family members from various close-knit communities across Toronto to participate in studies that take a comprehensive and holistic approach to brain and body health – from a basic understanding of the relation of brain and body physiology to mental function, to the identification of key environmental and genetic risk factors that compromise brain function.

“We are very excited about coming to Toronto. By building the Trans-generational Brain and Body Centre here, we hope to take advantage of Toronto’s cultural diversity and ask whether different pathways may lead to the same outcome in the brain, good or bad,” said Dr. Paus, whose partner Dr. Zdenka Pausova will co-direct the new TTBBC.

“Working with multi-generational families should give us an edge for making predictions about the way in which an individual’s genes and environment shape his or her brain and body over time. Our goal is to identify those individuals at risk and design interventions to increase brain and heart health of the young generation.”

Dr. Pausova is also a scientist from the University of Nottingham’s Brain and Body Centre. Trained in internal medicine and molecular and statistical genetics, her research interest is cardiovascular health in adolescence – specifically how genes and environment interact to generate common metabolic and cardiovascular disorders such as obesity and obesity-associated hypertension. She’ll co-direct the TTBBC from her new position as scientist at the world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids).

“Heart health impacts brain health,” said Dr. William Reichman, president and CEO of Baycrest. “Drs. Paus and Pausova bring tremendously important lifespan, developmental perspectives to our core neuroscience program at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. Their research will shed light on what influences – whether genetics, lifestyle habits or just normal aging – are the best predictors of whether we each will have a positive experience of aging or less than positive experience.”

The structural and functional brain data from the large-scale, population-based research studies will contribute significantly to two major research-driven initiatives at Baycrest:

The Baycrest-led international project to build the world’s first functional, virtual brain, a predictive modeling tool that will help doctors identify the specific brain areas to target for treatment in patients with cognitive impairment from stroke and other conditions;

The Baycrest Centre for Brain Fitness (CBF) which has teamed up with Toronto innovation centre MaRS to launch a new company (Cogniciti) that will develop and market scientifically-validated brain fitness products to help adults extend their memory and cognitive abilities longer in the lifespan.

Baycrest is an academic health sciences centre, internationally renowned for its care of aging adults and its excellence in aging brain research, clinical interventions and treatments, and promising cognitive rehabilitation strategies. For more information about Baycrest, go to www.baycrest.org

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For more information on this press release, contact:

Kelly Connelly
Senior Media Officer
P. 416-785-2432