Brain research led by the University of Windsor and the Ontario Brain Institute advances Ontario's leadership in neurosciences

WINDSOR, ON, Jan. 29, 2013 /CNW/ - Two distinct research projects led by University of Windsor researchers have the potential to transform how emergency patients with traumatic brain injuries are diagnosed and will improve cognition in children. The research projects were showcased during a media event at the University.

These advances come via an innovative partnership between the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the University of Windsor. The two projects are supported by a broader investment of $11 million by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to the OBI.

"Our government is pleased to see these two neurotechnology projects begin to take shape here in Windsor," said Member of Parliament Jeff Watson on behalf of the Honorable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for FedDev Ontario. "The partnerships will not only help create high-quality jobs in the region, but they will also support the discovery of new solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of brain-related injury and disease."

"Today's announcement demonstrates the potential value of brain research in Ontario to be applied directly through the development of products to benefit countless people, here and abroad," said Dr. Donald Stuss, President and Scientific Director, OBI.

Dr. Elena Maeva, principal investigator and associate professor cross appointed with Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Windsor, is leading one of the projects funded by FedDev Ontario through OBI. With industry partner Tessonics Inc., Dr. Maeva's project has the potential to improve the diagnostics of patients with traumatic brain injuries in field emergency cases.

Every year, about 1.5 million people in Canada and the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury. To properly diagnose brain injuries, the patient must undergo either a CAT scan or an MRI scan in a hospital setting. Dr. Maeva and her team have developed a mobile Ultrasonic Transcranial Imaging (UTI) device that enables emergency crews to quickly diagnose the patient's head injury at the site of an accident, which saves precious minutes. Using the portable UTI device, health care professionals can quickly detect structural brain damage around the wounded site, the identification of blood vessel pathologies, such as an aneurism. The device can also detect the presence of foreign objects trapped in the brain; determining their size, location and depth. A total of 10 full-time highly-skilled jobs are expected to be created from this project alone.

"The UTI has the potential to revolutionize treatment for traumatic brain injury and will bring considerable benefits to patients, healthcare providers and the healthcare sector as a whole," Dr. Maeva says. "Through the support of FedDev Ontario and industry partner Tessonics Inc., we see a much brighter future for patients who require immediate, emergency assessment."

Dr. Dragana Martinovic, associate professor at the University of Windsor, and her research team, along with industry partner OTEP Inc., are leading a project that uses the power of video games to identify and improve cognition in children aged six through 12. Research has shown that video games can serve as powerful tools in reshaping and enhancing visual-motor, spatial, visual and verbal skills. Furthermore, it can improve the ability to self-regulate, make appropriate decisions and problem-solve. Based on an understanding of how the brain develops in children and the impact of computer technologies, the researchers will design a software engine that will allow health professionals and parents to use the data from online computer games to identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses in children much earlier than is currently possible. A total of 15 full-time, highly-skilled jobs are expected to be created from this initiative.

"This truly interdisciplinary partnership between the University and industry is driven by the passion to better understand how computer games can be utilized in children's cognitive development," Dr. Martinovic says, "This exemplary collaboration among the UWindsor research team and industry partner Rob Whent at OTEP Inc. would only be possible through FedDev Ontario funding."

UWindsor President Alan Wildeman says fostering strong partnerships between academia and industry is the key to making the most efficient use of university research.

"Researchers at the University of Windsor are engaged in many projects addressing issues of importance to society," he says. "The work of the neurotechnology cluster is going to enhance diagnosis of brain injuries and provide new insights into cognitive development, and the University of Windsor is grateful for the support of FedDev Ontario, the Ontario Brain Institute, Tessonics and OTEP Inc."

In total, the investment by FedDev Ontario through its Technology Development Program to OBI will support 13 projects - including the two projects based at the University of Windsor - that have brought together 27 partners made up of 12 academic institutions (universities, hospitals and research institutes), 15 private sector organizations, including 4 international companies. This collaboration aims to accelerate the growth of Ontario's neuroscience sector and contribute towards the development of southern Ontario's growing neurotechnology cluster.

About the Ontario Brain Institute
Launched in November 2010, the OBI has been established to become an internationally recognized centre of excellence in brain research, translation and innovation. It will achieve its vision by initiating, funding, promoting and stimulating brain research, education and training. The research outcomes will be translated into clinical applications and commercialization opportunities related to the prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and management of brain diseases and disorders. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation funded by the Government of Ontario. The OBI will serve as a nexus for collaborative efforts, with a program focused on bringing together Ontario's leading scientists and clinicians drawn from Ontario's universities, colleges, and hospitals. For more information about the OBI, visit: http://www.braininstitute.ca

About the University of Windsor
Founded in 1963, the University of Windsor has close to 16,000 full-time and part-time students. The University of Windsor's mission is to enable people to make a better world through education, scholarship, research and engagement. For more information about the University of Windsor, visit: http://www.uwindsor.ca/

FedDev Ontario
Created in 2009, FedDev Ontario supports the southern Ontario economy by building on the region's strengths and creating opportunities for jobs and economic growth. The Agency has launched a number of initiatives to create a Southern Ontario Advantage and place the region in a strong position to compete in the global economy. These initiatives are designed to encourage partnerships and support projects that help the region's businesses and communities become more competitive, innovative and diversified. In June 2012, The Government of Canada announced a commitment of up to $10,971,133 through FedDev Ontario's Technology Development Program. This funding is allowing OBI to collaborate with 28 partners from the private sector, not-for-profit organizations and academic institutions on 13 projects to help accelerate the commercialization of neurotechnologies in southern Ontario. To learn more, please visit www.FedDevOntario.gc.ca or call 1-866-593-5505.

SOURCE: Ontario Brain Institute

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Media contacts

University of Windsor
Lori Lewis
Manager, News Services
Office of Public Affairs and Communications
University of Windsor
519-253-3000 ext. 3241
Cell: 519-564-9908
llewis@uwindsor.ca

Ontario Brain Institute
Shiva Amiri
Senior Program Lead
Ontario Brain Institute
647-847-3145
samiri@braininstitute.ca