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Baycrest announces plans for first-of-its-kind brain health facility in Canada

Rendering of Baycrest promenade.

Rendering of the promenade at The Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness at Baycrest.

Healthcare researchers are in a race against time to seek treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. As the world’s population ages, a new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds with 7.7 million new cases per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Currently, about 50 million people around the world live with the neurodegenerative disorder and this number is expected to surge to 75 million in 2030.

The statistics may appear bleak, but there are still opportunities to intervene. “We now know that Alzheimer’s starts to develop in the brain decades before memory loss symptoms become apparent,” says Baycrest President and CEO Dr. William Reichman. “By focusing on ways to prevent the disorder from developing, we stand a chance in stemming this ballooning public health crisis.”

Baycrest researchers remain at the forefront of leading the fight to prevent dementia. During its centennial last year, Baycrest shared its plans on the launch of a unique research and care facility that will be a shining example of what is possible in the realm of brain health and aging.

The Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness: Stopping dementia before it develops

Under the direction of Dr. Howard Chertkow, Baycrest’s new Chair in Cognitive Neurology and Innovation, and Senior Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, this new centre will spearhead the unprecedented convergence of scientific research and evidence-based interventions that will have a measurable impact on the brain health and wellness of older adults in our community, across Canada and worldwide.

The Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness builds on nearly 30 years of research leadership in Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) to seamlessly integrate brain health workshops, physical fitness, nutrition, sensory and cognitive training, arts programs, and social engagement for older adults. It also will serve as a testing ground and demonstration centre for new technologies supported by the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), a solution accelerator powered by Baycrest.

The Kimel Family Centre will focus on three areas:

  • Community Wellness Programming
  • Specialized Wellness Clinics
  • Integrated Research to Prevent Cognitive Decline

“The programming we will offer is based on research demonstrating that these activities may be beneficial to everyone,” says Dr. Chertkow, who is also the Scientific Director of Canada’s largest dementia study involving over 400 researchers across the country, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration on Aging. “The Kimel Family Centre’s one-of-a-kind environment will allow clinicians and researchers to closely track the effectiveness of prevention regimens and bring us closer to answering how we could prevent the onset of dementia and cognitive loss.”
Over the last 30 years, the RRI has made a number of discoveries helping to improve aging brain health and unlock the mysteries of the human brain.

Some of these discoveries include:

  • Uncovering the key differences between the brains of older and younger adults that set brain research in a new direction;
  • Finding the first clear evidence that bilingualism delays the onset of dementia;
  • Identifying anxiety as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, separate from depression

“The Kimel Family Centre is a natural evolution for us – taking our scientists’ discoveries into how the brain changes with age to the next level by working with healthcare professionals across the Baycrest campus to prevent, detect, and treat dementia,” says Dr. Allison Sekuler, Vice-President, Research and the Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at Baycrest, and Managing Director of the Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI).

Clinical Trials Unit: Exploring promising dementia treatments

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

“The majority of promising therapies have only shown benefits to mice, but some may work on patients,” says Dr. Chertkow. “In fact, these might also be more effective when administered in combination, and individuals deemed to have a higher risk of developing dementia at the Kimel Family Centre will qualify to participate in trials for combination therapy through our Clinical Trial Unit.”

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

  • Mindfulness meditation training for clients with early cognitive impairment and caregivers for individuals with dementia
  • Real-time fall detection and prevention technology for clients with dementia
  • Combined brain stimulation with group intervention to boost treatment effects
  • Lifestyle interventions to ward off dementia

“Our researchers have explored the prevention and early detection of dementia using many different approaches,” says Dr. Sekuler. “Through the Kimel Family Centre and Clinical Trials Unit, Baycrest staff are further united in creating a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration, and fulfillment.”

Baycrest is one of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Look for other RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter blog or join the conversation about why health research matters for Ontario on Twitter, using the hashtag #onHWS.