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February 07, 2024 Dr. Jean Chen, Baycrest’s Canada Research Chair in Neuroimaging of Aging and a Senior Scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, has received an important grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study how cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), the gold-standard talk treatment for depression, impacts the brain health of older adult caregivers. This research is particularly significant considering caregivers of people who live with dementia are at greater risk of developing depression which may, in turn, reduce their ability to provide care.
As such, it is critical to treat depression not only for the individual’s own wellbeing, but also, in the case of caregivers, for the care recipient. Additionally, depression can increase dementia risk by up to five times, and up to 12 per cent of Canadians will suffer from depression at some point in their lives.
With this new grant, Dr. Chen and her Baycrest co-investigator Dr. Nasreen Khatri will use blood tests, neuroimaging and symptom-based assessments to study how CBT changes the brain. CBT is an evidence-based, short-term, collaborative, problem-solving therapy that helps people to turn maladaptive patterns of thinking into adaptive ones. An earlier study at Baycrest headed up by Dr. Khatri provided early evidence that CBT improves mood and cognition, optimizing overall brain health in older adults. They will also look at inflammation levels in the brain, which are often correlated with depression.
“Our results will help clinicians optimize the use of CBT to improve the lives of the millions of Canadians living with depression,” says Dr. Chen. “In turn, this will help reduce their risk of dementia and allow them to lead their best possible lives as they age.”
Dr. Chen is a pioneer in the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine vascular      fluctuations in the brain as an indicator of brain health, and is currently leading research into the use of non-invasive therapies to improve brain health at home. Her crucial work is helping improve the lives of older adults both nationally and around the globe.
The CIHR’s Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment in Aging (BHCIA) Research Initiative: Mechanism in Brain Aging and Dementia Operating Grants funding opportunity was launched to advance the understanding about risk reduction and protective factors involved in promoting cognitive health and mitigating the changes that occur in the onset and progression of cognitive impairment and dementia in aging, while considering the intersection of different factors, including the social determinants of health and other structural and systemic barriers.
About Baycrest
Baycrest is a global leader in aging and brain health through research, innovation, care, and education, working to defeat dementia and create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including the Baycrest Academy for Research and Education, which developed the Defy Dementia program, and houses the Rotman Research Institute, one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience and the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. For more information, visit and
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.

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