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Advancing neuroscience technology and treatment around the world

Published: 8 May 2019

HBHL-supported inaugural meeting of the Global Brain Consortium to explore the potential of EEG to pave the way

On May 9 and 10, experts from around the world will gather at McGill University to address global disparities in brain and mental health research and treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Many of today’s studies and breakthroughs in early detection diagnoses rely on costly neuroimaging technologies - equipment that is beyond the reach of public health in developing countries. Given the high cost and operational requirements, even high-income countries are hard-pressed to roll out neuroimaging services to remote communities, such as those in Canada’s north.

Neuroscientists, data scientists, researchers and clinicians attending the inaugural Global Brain Consortium (GBC) workshop will discuss the most cost-effective tools to advance research to clinical practice, and ways to foster global collaboration to drive the development of these tools. Participants will also explore strategies to foster public health policy, neuroethics and data governance standards to enable the use of these new tools.

Among the most flexible, portable and clinically promising neurological tools is the electroencephalography (EEG).

“We believe EEG offers an excellent use case that will lay the groundwork for a new global neuroscience collaborative network that will both conduct advanced research into the dynamic nature of brain circuits and enhance mental health management on a global scale” says Alan Evans, Scientific Director of McGill University’s Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives (HBHL) initiative and the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics & Mental Health.

EEG-based technologies are already widely used for the early diagnosis of brain disorders, helping to minimize the damage of unmonitored disease progression. With research and investment, EEG could become a practical alternative for population screening and diagnosis, especially in developing countries and isolated communities where neuroimaging technologies are prohibitively expensive.

The GBC leverages several HBHL-supported neuroinformatics initiatives based at McGill’s Montreal Neurological Institute (The Neuro), including the Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform (CONP), as well as the BigBrain project, which bring together more than 25 data-sharing initiatives in neurodegenerative disorders and mental illness, globally.

One of the goals of the GBC is to support the continued development of a data-sharing platform that will be open and accessible to all countries. As a starting point, the inaugural meeting will expand the already well-established Canada-China-Cuba collaboration in dementia and Alzheimer’s research, which in 2018 included the installation of Dr. Evans’ neuroinformatics platform to facilitate data sharing and big-data analytics.

The GBC was established in 2017 with $300,000 in seed funding from the Ludmer Centre to tackle the urgent need for a more global approach to the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative disease and mental illness.

The overarching goal of the consortium is to facilitate global research towards understanding the human brain and the identification of early detection biomarkers using cost-effective technologies, such as EEG, for consciousness-related pathophysiology, neurodegenerative disorders, and mental illnesses.

Learn more about the workshop.

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