Research and innovation at Baycrest tackles dementia
Dr. Allison Sekuler
Vice-President Research, Baycrest
Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience

As a key pillar of Canada’s new national dementia strategy, research and innovation plays an important role in tackling the growing public health crisis of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Baycrest is proud to be leading the charge in the quest to defeat dementia.

Baycrest has long been a leader in the discovery and advancement of the latest dementia research, innovation and care, given its targeted focus on aging and brain health. As home to the world-renowned Rotman Research Institute (RRI), the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), a centre for education, long-term care, retirement home and a continuing care hospital, Baycrest brings together researchers with diverse, disciplinary expertise.

Baycrest becomes the scientific headquarters of Canada’s national dementia research initiative

This year, we welcomed the scientific headquarters of Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), to the Baycrest campus.

Led by Dr. Howard Chertkow, CCNA’s Scientific Director and a Senior Scientist and Chair in Cognitive Neurology and Innovation at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, CCNA brings together more than 300 of Canada’s top dementia researchers and clinicians to collaboratively investigate critical areas of Alzheimer’s and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

CCNA received $46 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, with the support of 12 other partners, to pursue its research mandate for a second, five-year phase (2019-2024). CABHI joined as an innovation and commercialization partner to ensure that Canada’s investment in research makes a real impact on the health and well-being of older adults and their caregivers from coast to coast.

Advancing dementia research

Researchers at Baycrest work across the brain health spectrum – from basic science uncovering the mysteries of the human brain, to clinical studies improving care at the bedside, to innovative ideas developing the latest technological tools to positively transform the aging experience.

The challenge of dementia is addressed on multiple fronts: from healthy aging strategies and prevention, to early detection and diagnosis of cognitive decline, to the treatment of dementia and cognitive decline and support of caregivers.

Prevention research: There is no cure yet for dementia, but there are ways to reduce a person’s risk. One day, a family doctor could recommend individualized longevity prescriptions: a specific diet, an exercise regime, music or language lessons, mindfulness and sleep-enhancing practices, sensory and cognitive training, or social interaction groups as treatments to help prevent the disease. Baycrest researchers are playing a leading role in clinical trials exploring the benefits of these lifestyle interventions and more.

Early detection research: One of the reasons there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease may be that patients are being treated too late in the illness’ progression. Our researchers are using the latest technological and brain imaging tools to establish biomarkers to identify people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease sooner. Earlier diagnosis will open the door for new treatments and for interventions to slow progression of neurodegenerative disorders, reducing the overall prevalence of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Treatment research: Clinical trials are an essential step in developing effective treatments and in advancing our knowledge about these neurodegenerative disorders. Baycrest’s new Clinical Trials Unit was created to respond to a growing need to explore and test new therapies to prevent and treat dementia, such as new drugs, dietary and exercise programs, brain stimulation, meditation, light therapy, sensory and cognitive training and many more unique approaches.

Celebrating 30 years of Rotman Research Institute discovery and innovation

When Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute was founded 30 years ago, it was buoyed by the generosity and vision of Joseph Rotman and the RRI’s founding director, Dr. Donald Stuss. As we celebrate this milestone, reflect on our past and look towards the future, we remain eternally grateful to both individuals for their innumerable contributions.

From the very beginning, our mission was to promote effective care and improved quality of life of older adults through research into the behavioural and neural changes that occur during aging. We have grown exponentially since those early days, but the RRI remains steadfast in carrying on this legacy, advancing Canada’s national dementia strategy by pursuing research and innovations to tackle Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Our vision is a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. This means a world without dementia. Research at Baycrest is moving us one step closer to defeating dementia.