We aspire to become the world’s premier network dedicated to accelerating the development, testing, and dissemination of solutions in aging and brain health. It is our objective to improve the well-being of seniors and their families, enhance the quality and effectiveness of care, and spur innovation in Canada and globally.
Listed below are some of the projects initiated in our first year and destined to improve quality of care in long-term care homes throughout North America and beyond.
Art-on-the-Brain is a mobile health solution that uses artwork as a vehicle for meaningful intellectual and social engagement for adults with and without dementia. The primary goal of the application is to promote improved health and well-being. The secondary goal is to provide physicians and care providers with a proven and safe tool for patient use.
The project involves refining the application and testing it with users. Feedback from testing will allow further modification of the application. A key component of the project is to develop the commercialization plan for Art-on-the-Brain. The commercial partners for this project are Art Gallery of Ontario, Canadian Art Magazine, Memory & Company, QoC Health, MaRS Innovation, and Quanta Computer Inc.
Brain Health Promotion
Researchers at Baycrest are investigating factors that affect brain health, including diet, social engagement, and mood, to develop an integrated, non-pharmacological approach to promoting healthy brain aging throughout life. The goal is to reduce the likelihood of developing brain disorders such as cognitive impairment, dementia, and late-life depression. This knowledge will serve as a basis for developing new interventions that take into account the individual’s psychosocial environment, activities, and other strategies to promote sustained changes in lifestyle behaviours.
Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment
Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment is a science-based brain health test developed by clinical neuropsychologists and cognitive scientists at Baycrest to help determine if certain memory changes warrant a visit to the doctor. The test, for adults 50 to 79, was co-developed by Cogniciti Inc., which is owned by Baycrest and partner MaRS Discovery District. To date, more than 35,000 adults have completed the test. The commercial partner for this project is Johnson and Johnson Inc. The project includes:
- Validating the tool to determine its sensitivity and specificity for identifying older adults at risk of dementia;
- Adapting it to work on a variety of tablets;
- Extending the age range of the tool to expand its reach;
- Creating a brain health registry of willing research volunteers.
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Baycrest researchers are working to increase their understanding of hearing, speech perception, and speech production, so they can apply this knowledge to new and better treatments and improve communication. Research is increasingly showing that communication difficulties are related not only to the ear but also to the brain, giving rise to the frequent complaint, “I can hear you, but I can’t understand you.” One promising line of research is the development of a cognitive intervention program to exercise and strengthen areas of the brain that process sound, thereby preventing or delaying hearing loss.
Another important area of research would include the development of “smart” hearing aids that amplify sound and interface directly with the brain, compensating for impaired brain function. This interventional research spans the spectrum of communication impairments from routine age-related hearing loss to more significant deficits often present in adults following stroke and or affected by dementia.
Learning Management System
For all health-care professionals, continuous education is an important part of ensuring consistent[CC4] knowledge and quality patient care. This project involves developing and implementing a rigorous and comprehensive Learning Management System that provides e-learning courses for health-care professionals and those who interact with the health-care system, including seniors, their families, and their caregivers.
Eye Tracking Cognitive Assessment
This project involves adapting lab-based eye-tracking tasks of cognition for use with a mobile platform and obtaining eye-tracking data from healthy adults with cognitive decline. It compares sensitivity, specificity, and reliability of eye-tracking based assessments against a standardized, widely used measure of cognitive health, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.
In their efforts to understand dementia and other brain disorders, scientists have recognized the promise of big data – very large sets of information that may be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, in this instance related to human behaviour. However, the standards for gathering and analyzing data may vary across institutions, limiting the gathering and optimal extraction of information for research and clinical trials.
The aim of the MRI Neuroinformatics project is to develop standardized architecture to share neuroimaging data, essential health information, and analysis tools nationally. This will create robust, reproducible MRI data processing and analysis pipelines that can be used in partner centres.
Web-based Goal Management Training®
Goal Management Training ® (GMT) is an interactive and structured program designed to help individuals with impairments in executive functioning improve their organization and ability to achieve goals. The program includes psychoeducation, narrative examples, mindfulness practice, and assignments completed both between and within sessions. Its efficacy has been demonstrated in older adults and a variety of patient populations. The program is normally run in person, which limits its accessibility. With the support of CABHI, we are digitizing the program, so that older adults and patients can access it online from the comforts of their home, while still interacting with a therapist. This will tremendously increase the reach of the program.
“We are very excited for this opportunity to scale up our evidence-based intervention for executive impairment and broaden its accessibility’.”
—Brian Levine, Ph.D., C.Psych, ABPP-cn, Senior Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Online Memory and Aging Program (MAP): “Scalable Tools to Better Manage Memory”
The Memory and Aging Program is an evidence-based education and intervention program for older adults experiencing normal age-related memory changes. Through interactive lectures, discussion, and practical exercises, participants learn about memory changes that occur with age – what is normal and what is not – and what can be done to improve memory. Over 1,000 older adults have participated in the face-to-face program at Baycrest. Through CABHI support,an online version of MAP will enable significant scalability – MAP will be extended oo extend to bring benefits to hundreds of thousands older adults.
“It’s tremendously exciting to know that in developing an online version of our program, we’ll be making it accessible to a significantly higher number of older adults.”
— Angie Troyer, PhD, CPsych[CC2] , Director of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Health at Baycrest.
The Virtual Brain: “Forging New Solutions in Personal Brain Healthcare”
The Virtual Brain (TVB) is the first computerized model to capture the intricate details of the structure and function of the brain under normal circumstances, as a result of trauma or disease, and as it ages. Currently, TVB is used as a research tool to build models that predict the development and progress of disease. With the goal of expanding its clinical use, CABHI is partnering with InteraXon using its MUSE headband as a type of mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) that could enable new clinical uses. The commercial partner for this project is InteraXon.
“Our partnership with the CABHI has enabled us to accelerate our pace of innovation and is enabling us to use leading technology in new ways to positively benefit our aging population.”
— Derek Luke, Director of Engineering at MUSE.
Trigger is a prosthetic memory application that enables individuals with memory impairment to re-live the past in context, the way memories should be experienced. Using the app, memories can be triggered within context by location, time, and facial recognition on a mobile device.
QOCA Home Solution Trial: “Overcoming Isolation and Preventing Mental Health Decline in Older Adults”
The QOCA home solution is a cloud-based platform designed to improve social connectedness to lessen the effect of isolation and loneliness. The commercial partner for this project is Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Inc., one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world. The project involves customizing, deploying, and evaluating the QOCA home platform, and more specifically the Home Hub tablet device, with seniors and their circle of care in the Baycrest community.
“Access to the older adult population at Baycrest provides us with real-life insight on the utility, applicability, and scalability of our platform. We use the information we obtain to refine our product and customize a solution with genuine value for older adults in Canada and around the world. Our partnership with CABHI makes our important work possible.”
— Terence Huang, Sr. Manager at Quanta Computer Inc.
Researchers at Baycrest are using state-of-the art technology including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to understand disease-related and acute treatment-related changes in brain structure and function in individuals with various brain disorders like stroke, dementia, and late-life depression. Additionally, they are gathering information about physical and physiological health in order to construct a holistic picture of what promotes healthy brain aging.
The use of these powerful technologies and this smart mapping approach will allow researchers:
- To gather the above information in smaller numbers of individuals, accelerating the timeframe from question to answer;
- An approach that involves a comprehensive set of brain-imaging and physical-health assessments;
- To evaluate existing brain interventions to understand why certain interventions work for some patients but not others;
- To help design new brain interventions faster and more efficiently, identifying early on which interventions will likely not work, saving both time and money on development and clinical trials;
- To develop new brain health interventions using a mechanistic approach inspired by the rational drug design movement.
Most people living with dementia, at some point in their disease, will display responsive behaviours, which represent how their actions, words, and gestures are a response to something of importance to them. These behaviours, such as grabbing onto people, complaining, or wandering, can add to the challenge of caring for them, especially if they require transfer to a new setting.
Virtual Care project builds on an existing Baycrest program, which uses video to help transition clients with dementia-related responsive behaviours to long-term care. The current program uses a secure, cloud-based platform that allows Baycrest to share vital patient care information through documents, photos, videos, and health records. The project involves:
- Expanding, testing, and evaluating the Care in Transition program for residents with responsive behaviours who are moving to other facilities or care settings or vice-versa;
- Disseminating the products and processes to other seniors’ care institutions and the CABHI network.
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