BR A I N H E A LTH
Collaboration key to unravelling mysteries of the mind
Call it the ultimate brain trust. At UBC’s Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, more than 250 researchers from the fields of neurology, neuroscience and psychiatry are working together to solve the world’s greatest mystery: the human brain.
Bridging basic science and clinical care in a state-of-the-art facility, the centre provides opportunities for education, collaboration, and interaction with patients from across BC. It is the largest and most comprehensive brain care and research centre in Canada, and is a partnership between UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.
Under the leadership of co-directors Drs. Brian MacVicar and Jon Stoessl, the centre is poised to move research from the bedside to the bench and back again, in order to understand disease and translate research into better patient care and therapies.
“Interaction is key for us,” says MacVicar of the collaborative nature of the centre. “We want scientists and clinicians working together, sitting down to talk about the possibilities out there, learning about each other’s constraints, and talking about crazy ideas. We need the crazy ideas to challenge dogmas in brain science and come up with new solutions.”
The good news is that it’s working. The centre’s unique approach is helping UBC to recruit some of the world’s leading scientists, and is providing students with unprecedented experience in collaboration that could change the future of medicine. That’s welcome news given that brain disease is on its way to becoming Canada’s leading cause of death: it already affects one in three Canadians and costs the economy more than $30 billion a year.
The centre is home to clinics that investigate and treat virtually every kind of brain illness and injury, from Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s, to concussion, addiction and mental health.
It’s a hub for researchers such as Dr. Lara Boyd, a neuroscientist and physical therapist who holds the Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Motor Learning. Boyd’s multidisciplinary team in the Brain Behaviour Lab is successfully curbing the effects of stroke through early intervention and innovative treatments that stimulate healthy parts of the brain to take over lost functions.
“The centre’s integrated approach has been critical to my lab’s success,” says Boyd. “Solving problems such as strokes requires research from multiple angles. It’s making connections and leveraging information that we share – drugs and therapies – to maximize solutions.”