Leading the charge to improve aging brain health
Dr. Allison Sekuler
Vice-President Research, Baycrest
Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience

Scientists from Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, Drs. Morris Freedman and Allison Sekuler, are exploring the effectiveness of a brain-sensing headband for mindfulness meditation among individuals with cognitive impairment and their caregivers.

We’re in a race against time to tackle dementia and transform the aging experience.

As the world’s population ages, a new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds with 7.7 million new cases per year worldwide. Currently, about 50 million people around the globe live with the neurodegenerative disorder and this number is expected to surge to 75 million by 2030.

The statistics may appear bleak, but there are opportunities to intervene. Baycrest researchers are leading the charge in the fight against dementia, as we work towards a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment.

In 2018, Baycrest celebrated its centennial anniversary and this coming year, the Rotman Research Institute will celebrate its 30th anniversary. While we reflect on our successes, we also continue to move forward. This year, we launched a number of exciting new initiatives that will ultimately lead to better health for older adults.

The future of brain research: Stopping dementia before it develops

People commonly think of Alzheimer’s as an “old person’s disease,” but our researchers have shown that dementia starts decades before any symptoms appear. The key to dementia prevention may be to maintain brain health throughout adulthood.

Building on decades of scientific discoveries, Baycrest is building the Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness, a one-of-a-kind, research and care facility combining community wellness programming, specialized clinics, and integrated research aimed at enhancing wellness and preventing cognitive decline among older adults.

Under the direction of Dr. Howard Chertkow, Baycrest’s new Chair in Cognitive Neurology and Innovation and Senior Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute (RRI), this new centre will spearhead the unprecedented convergence of scientific research and evidence-based interventions that will impact the brain health and wellness of older adults in our community, across Canada and around the world. It will incorporate innovations from the Baycrest-led Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, as well as novel interventions and research programs developed by our researchers.

The Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness’ unique environment will allow clinicians and researchers to closely track the effectiveness of prevention regimens and bring us closer to discovering how to prevent dementia and minimize cognitive decline.

Clinical Trials Unit: Exploring promising dementia treatments

To complement this cutting-edge facility, Baycrest is also developing a formal Clinical Trials Unit to continue providing our clients and community members access to groundbreaking drug and non-drug interventions.

After decades of studying the brain, promising prevention and treatment options are finally emerging.

Some of the upcoming clinical trials that our researchers, clinicians and industry partners are planning at Baycrest include:

• Mindfulness meditation training for clients with cognitive impairment and their caregivers

• Real-time fall detection and prevention technology for clients with dementia

• Combined brain stimulation and group interventions to boost treatment effects

• Utilizing artificial intelligence-enabled robots to decrease loneliness and enhance quality of life among older adults living alone

The Clinical Trials Unit will enable Baycrest researchers to bring ideas to life and provide the latest dementia research, care and innovative solutions to our clients and the broader community.

Bridging the gap between research and care

To reach a point where we can start effectively preventing, detecting and treating dementia, various disciplinary approaches need to come together.

Baycrest has designed its campus to bring together researchers involved in work across the brain health spectrum, from basic science to uncover the mysteries of the human brain, to clinical studies to improve care at the bedside to innovative ideas to develop the latest technological tools to transform the aging experience.

The Ben & Hilda Katz Inter-Professional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, led by RRI Senior Scientist, Dr. Nicole Anderson, unites Baycrest’s scientists, clinicians and front-line staff to engage in research that will address the unique challenges of older adults, particularly those with dementia, and develop new programs to maintain brain health and wellness.

As our centennial comes to a close, Baycrest is proud to maintain its status as one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals. We look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of aging and brain health research in our second century. Visit to find out how we can work together to not just add years to life, but to add life to years.