October 03, 2022
Baycrest is pleased to announce that Dr. Jennifer Ryan has been appointed as the new Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, a joint position at Baycrest and the University of Toronto. A leading neuroscientist in the field of aging and brain health, Dr. Ryan will harness her expertise in eye tracking to develop tools that detect changes in cognition and mental health, as well as cognitive strategies to keep people healthier for longer.
Dr. Ryan’s research has already shown that eye movements are closely linked to memory, potentially playing an active role in helping us create memories and retrieve them later. She is now exploring ways to use this link to screen for dementia risk and cognitive decline.
“Eye tracking has the potential to be a great tool to assess memory and other cognitive functions because, unlike many existing neuropsychological tests, it doesn’t rely on language or education. This could make it particularly useful in diverse communities such as Toronto,” says Dr. Ryan, Senior Scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and Professor at the University of Toronto. “The earlier we can detect cognitive decline, the earlier we can prescribe interventions to help individuals maintain their brain health for as long as possible.”
Building on the link between eye movements and memory, Dr. Ryan is testing whether there are optimal visual scanning strategies for memory. This knowledge could lead to the development of training to help older adults better remember the things they see as they age.
Besides memory, eye movement patterns may also reflect mental health. Preliminary results from Dr. Ryan’s lab suggest that people who have experienced depression in the past or who are currently living with it may not visually explore their world as much as others do. Therefore, Dr. Ryan and her team are investigating the use of eye tracking to detect changes in mental health, which could ultimately help in addressing mental health concerns as early as possible.
“I am excited by the promise of Dr. Ryan’s research on eye tracking and mood disorders, and by her continuing studies of memory and cognition,” says Dr. Trevor Young, Dean of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at U of T. “This work extends the trajectory of innovative neuroscience in Toronto supported by the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chairs, which spans more than two decades.”
“We look forward to seeing the results of the critical research that Dr. Ryan will conduct in her role as the new Tanenbaum Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, and we thank Anne and Max Tanenbaum for their generous support of this vital work,” says Dr. Allison Sekuler, President and Chief Scientist of the Baycrest Academy for Research and Education at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, and Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at the RRI. “In line with the RRI’s focus on predictive neuroscience for precision aging, Dr. Ryan’s research will lead to the development of personalized approaches in care to prevent dementia and preserve brain health for older adults.”
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.
About the University of Toronto
Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto is Canada’s top university with a long history of challenging the impossible and transforming society through the ingenuity and resolve of its faculty, students, alumni and supporters. The ideas, innovations and contributions of more than 95,000 learners, 22,000 faculty and 640,000 graduates advance U of T’s impact on communities across the globe. Annually, U of T receives $1.37 billion in research funds and contributes $15.7 billion to the Canadian economy.