We are currently in an era defined by many neuroscientists as the “Golden Age of Neuroscience.” Unlocking the mysteries of the brain has been a global effort from scientists around the world.

We now have a much deeper understanding of the complexities of the brain, leading to more meaningful impacts on improving human health. In the past year, scientists have made exciting breakthroughs, such as advances in our understanding about the mechanisms of human consciousness, creating technologies to allow direct brain-to-brain communications, and developing a transparent mouse that will provide a three-dimensional view of neural networks.

In addition to these innovative advancements, we have also accelerated our knowledge behind the genetic underpinnings of complex disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

"The unprecedented pace and challenge of neuroscience research seen today requires an equally strong commitment of support from the community."

A systems approach to neuroscience

Ninety percent of what we know about the brain has been discovered in the past twenty years. More recent findings have suggested common mechanisms as the link between various brain disorders.  This “systems” approach to neuroscience is supported by research which has linked inflammation from immune system disorders or injury early in life to an increased risk of developing mental illness, and bacteria in a mother’s intestines to having profound effects on fetal brain development. This “systems” approach has enabled scientists to think of the brain as an interconnected complex system, an idea which is fundamentally changing our approach to brain research. 

Commitment to the cause

The unprecedented pace and challenge of neuroscience research seen today requires an equally strong commitment of support from the community. Global collaborative efforts such as the BRAIN initiative in the United States, and the Human Brain Project in Europe have been formed to accelerate brain research breakthroughs. Canada is a key player in addressing these challenges, as Canadian researchers rank fifth in the world for high quality brain research. The Canadian government has invested $990 million in neuroscience research within the last decade.

In 2011, the federal government established the Canada Brain Research Fund, which will match up to $100 million in funds raised by Brain Canada and its partners, to invest in outcomes-focused research.

Canada is also a strong global partner in brain research through participation in the “G7 Global Action Against Dementia”, an international collaborative effort with a goal of finding a cure to dementia by 2025. While these efforts are promising, it is important to note that our best chances of success will result from providing researchers with sufficient funding to produce the paradigm-shifting discoveries that fundamental, translational, and clinical researchers, working together as a team, can advance to the clinic.

This approach will ultimately bring us closer to our goals of understanding the brain and its incredible potential, allowing us to preserve brain health, repair the injured brain, and benefit patients, families and caregivers.