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March 13, 2014 Eleven researchers from Baycrest Health Sciences and its world-renowned Rotman Research Institute (RRI) will join a national initiative announced by the federal government to accelerate scientific understanding of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases – an effort that will lead to more effective treatments and prevention strategies for Canadians.

Brain ImageFederal Health Minister Rona Ambrose officially launched the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) in Montreal yesterday, promising $55-million in funding over five years from the Government of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a group of 13 partners from the public and private sectors, including the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Led by world-renowned Alzheimer’s disease expert Dr. Howard Chertkow, co-founder and director of the Jewish General Hospital/McGill Memory Clinic, the CCNA brings together 20 research teams and more than 300 scientific and clinical experts from across Canada to focus research on three themes:
  •     Delaying the onset of dementia and related illnesses
  •     Preventing these illnesses from occurring
  •     Improving the quality of life of Canadians living with these illnesses and their caregivers

“We know that a person’s risk for dementia doubles every five years after age 65. At Baycrest, our strategic focus on brain health and aging positions us to help improve the quality of life for older Canadians, whether they live at home or in long-term care settings,” said Dr. William Reichman, President and CEO of Baycrest Health Sciences.

“If we can delay the onset of dementia by just five years, we could cut the number of Canadians with the disease in half.”

Baycrest will lead or be part of CCNA research teams that are focused on nutrition and brain health, cognitive rehabilitation and training, and strategies for helping older Canadians extend their safe driving abilities. Baycrest will also play a key role in helping the national consortium devise a common set of clinical (including neuropsychological), neuroimaging and genetic assessments for the 1,600 research participants from across Canada who will enroll in CCNA research studies.

The Baycrest researchers participating in the CCNA include: Drs. Gary Naglie, Brian Levine, Deirdre Dawson, Nicole Anderson, Morris Freedman, Regina Jokel, Kelly Murphy, Angela Troyer, Malcolm Binns, Stephen Strother and Carol Greenwood.

“The Rotman Research Institute is extremely pleased with the opportunity to collaborate nationally through the CCNA and support our commitment in scientific investigation of brain functioning to detect dementias early and accelerate development of the most effective interventions,” said Dr. Randy McIntosh, Vice-President of Research at Baycrest and Director of the RRI.

In a recent interview with CBC’s The National, Dr. Greenwood, a senior scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and leader of the CCNA’s Nutrition, Exercise and Lifestyle Team, predicted that bringing together the best and brightest minds in the field from across the country will lead to discoveries in the next few years that will reduce the number of individuals who develop dementias or delay their onset, and help patients afflicted with devastating brain diseases and their families who do most of the caregiving.

“The launch of the CCNA provides us with exciting opportunities to work with scientists from coast to coast with a primary interest in understanding lifestyle factors including nutrition and exercise as contributors to brain health, and developing effective intervention strategies to help older Canadians maximize their brain health and function through their retirement years,” said Dr. Greenwood.

Dementia is a major global public health issue. In 2011, an estimated 747,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. By 2031, it is projected that 1.4 million Canadians will have dementia, costing the Canadian economy nearly $300 billion per year.
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