June 02, 2022
Baycrest is pleased to announce that Dr. Jean Chen has been named the Canada Research Chair in Neuroimaging of Aging for a second consecutive term.
A senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI), Dr. Chen is an expert on the heart-brain connection and a pioneer in the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine blood fluctuations in the brain as an indicator of brain health.
“Heart health has a powerful influence on brain function. We know that certain lifestyle factors, such as healthy eating and exercise, support better heart and brain health, and help reduce the risk of developing depression, dementia and other neurological disorders. However, addressing lifestyle factors can seem overwhelming, and some older adults may not be ready or able to do so,” says Dr. Chen, who is also an Associate Professor of Medical Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. “To support these individuals, in my second term as Canada Research Chair, I aim to deliver non-invasive, personalized interventions to improve brain health as an alternative to implementing broad lifestyle changes.”
One of these interventions is low-level laser therapy. In this therapeutic technique, infrared laser penetrates the skull to improve vascular health and blood flow in the brain, which has been shown to enhance brain activity. In collaboration with other RRI scientists, including Drs. Nasreen Khatri and Linda Mah, Dr. Chen will also examine the effects of breathing exercises and cognitive behavioural therapy on mood and cognition in older adults.
At present, many therapies designed to improve brain health in older adults require the patient to travel to a clinic or hospital on a regular basis. If these new interventions are found to be beneficial, they could easily be adopted and used at home. This would increase their accessibility and reach to benefit more older adults, including those living with depression, dementia and other neurological conditions.
“Through my research, I hope to give older adults access to easy, non-invasive tools they can use regularly to maintain and improve their brain health,” says Dr. Chen. “I really see this as the way of the future.”
In her second term as Canada Research Chair, Dr. Chen will also advance the use of MRI to detect early, microscopic signs of damage in the brain. This will build on her first term, when she patented an innovative, non-invasive brain imaging method to identify markers of poor vascular health earlier in life.
Another key focal point in Dr. Chen’s research program will be understanding the differences between the brains of men and women as they age.
Says Dr. Chen, “Our data increasingly shows that men and women’s brains age differently, both in health and in the presence of heart-related risk factors. This could have significant implications in terms of the prevention, detection and treatment of dementia.”
“We applaud the Canada Research Chair program for once again recognizing Dr. Chen’s critical work in the field of neuroimaging of aging, which significantly advances the RRI’s vision of predictive neuroscience for precision aging,” says Dr. Allison Sekuler, President and Chief Scientist of the Baycrest Academy for Research and Education, and the Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at the RRI. “Her research will have a profound impact on the lives of so many older adults, creating a world in which everyone is empowered to age fearlessly.”
Launched in 2000, the Government of Canada created the Canada Research Chair program to make Canada one of the world's top countries in research and development. Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.
Baycrest is a global leader in aging and brain health with a vision of a world where, with your help, we can all Fear No AgeTM
. Baycrest provides everyone the tools they need to make their later years the best years of their lives. Through our work in research, innovation, care and education, we are working to defeat dementia and create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. For more information about Baycrest, visit baycrest.org or visit www.FearNoAge.com
About Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest is a preeminent international centre for the study of aging and human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the RRI advances our understanding of human brain structure and function in critical areas of clinical, cognitive, and computational neuroscience, including perception, memory, language, attention and decision making. With a primary focus on aging and brain health, including Alzheimer’s and related dementias, research at the RRI and across the Baycrest campus promotes effective care and improved quality of life for older adults through research into age- and disease-related behavioural and neural changes.