Western, York and Queens joint neuroscience initiative


December 1, 2008 - A major neuroscience research initiative, the Canadian Action and Perception Network (CAPnet), has been established by The University of Western Ontario, York University, and Queens University. Robarts is the hub for Westerns neuroimaging work, and the lead in neuroimaging across the initiative. Several Robarts scientists, including Mel Goodale, Ravi Menon, Stefan Everling and Robert Bartha, are involved in the initiative through their work as members of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Group for Action and Perception (GAP). Mel Goodale is the Director of the CIHR Group.CAPnet will hold its first full 2-day science and business meeting in Toronto, December 2-3, 2008, with approximately 30 neuroscience faculty members, several distinguished international advisors, guests from government agencies and private industry, and the Vice Presidents of Research (and Innovation) from Queens, Western, and York. By joining forces, researchers at these three institutions aim to understand how the brain works, especially in human movement control and perception, and how disease and injury can disrupt these functions.CAPnet is a collaborative venture spearheaded by neuroscientists from three established research groups: the York Centre for Vision Research (CVR), the Western-based Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Group for Action and Perception (GAP), and the Queens-based CIHR Group for Sensorimotor Integration. Individually, these three groups represent the top vision research centre, the top cognitive neuroscience group, and the top sensorimotor group in Canada. Over the past five years alone, they have trained 664 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and published 805 refereed journal articles. They have already discovered how the brain analyzes vision in different neural streams for perception and action, how it maps our surroundings as we move through 3-D space, and how it starts and stops eye movements. By combining their formidable resources, with a focus on perception and action, CAPnet aims to be the leading perception and action group in the world, and one of the worlds top neuroscience groups.CAPnets research goal is to understand how the brain uses sensory information to construct an internal perceptual representation of the world, and guide purposeful movements, both in health and sickness. Most of the central nervous system including the cerebral cortex, subcortical brain structures, and the spinal cord is involved in these processes, so this amounts to understanding how the brain works as a system to guide behaviour. Conversely, it follows that nearly every disease, disorder, and injury of the central nervous system Parkinsons, Alzheimers, stroke, and cerebral palsy to just name a few has some impact on these systems. Such diseases affect approximately one billion people in the world, and collectively represent the number one health care cost in developed countries, so the potential social and economic impact of this research for Canadians and people around the world is enormous.Individual CAPnet members have maintained active collaborations for many years, but this is the first time they have sought to formalize this relationship and mount a concerted effort at a national and international scale. Canada is well known in the international neuroscience research community for its unusually concentrated, even dominant strength in this particular area of systems neuroscience. The CAPnet steering committee Doug Crawford (York), Jody Culham (Western), Randy Flanagan (Queens), Mel Goodale (Western), Laurence Harris (York), Ravi Menon (Robarts Research Institute at Western), Douglas Munoz (Queens), Stephen Scott (Queens), and Hugh Wilson (York) are recognized international leaders and hold numerous national distinctions, including four Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs, one Ontario Research Development Challenge Fund, one Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, one Steacie Prize, two top 20 young explorer awards from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and one top 40 under 40. CAPnet researchers have access to major research infrastructures for modern brain imaging and recording, sophisticated behavioural assessment tools, and various patient populations.CAPnet aims to:

  • tackle major research projects by bringing together different teams of expertise within its membership
  • share knowledge, technology, and infrastructure
  • create interdisciplinary training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows
  • develop new medical technologies
  • expand opportunities for translation of knowledge from the bench to the bedside'
  • and pursue joint funding opportunities beyond the traditional tri-council operating grant model. CAPnet presents a major opportunity for Canada to capitalize on its existing strengths and investments and enhance our international status in the area of system neuroscience.For more information, see the CAPnet website: http://www.cap-net.ca/