A disorder in the brain affects not only the body but can rob a person’s sense of identity. There are so many afflictions – autism, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia – it’s no wonder some experts are calling for a “War on Brain Illness” the way Richard Nixon called for a War on Cancer.
Brain disorders and disease in Ontario are estimated to cost $39-billion a year in health care, lost productivity and other social consequences. While there are no comparable national figures, research and treatment of brain illnesses are enormously important.
It’s timely, then, that the Ontario Brain Institute has launched its first three research projects, involving more than 80 researchers. Created in 2009, it recently announced therapies to diagnose and treat intractable epilepsy, better treatment for neurodevelopment disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and integrating rehabilitation and video-game technology so that those with cerebral palsy can do therapy at home.
“The big vision is to transform society through knowledge of how the brain works and maximizing human potential,” said Dr. Don Stuss, the institute’s CEO.
The OBI¸ which received $15-million over three years, brings together researchers who work in different areas, to pool data and work toward the common goal of brain health. It leverages research done in hospitals and universities by uniting researchers with industry leaders, with the aim of creating discoveries that are turned into treatments.
Three questions are top-of-mind for researchers. What are the key times and places in the brain in neurodevelopment that cause things to go right or wrong? What happens when the brain degenerates and how can that process be halted? How can researchers have an impact on the connections in the brain? A War on Brain Illness should be declared and public and private funds provided – ammunition, so to speak. Otherwise, there will be a tragically missed opportunity to discover what makes our minds work and how to fix and hold onto them.