As we get older, our ability to process spatial information declines. Thanks to new government funding, researcher Debbie Kelly is investigating what aging does to our brains, specifically how it affects the way we navigate our way around. The new Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Comparative Cognition, Kelly is the first researcher to use a bird model – pigeons – to understand age-related spatial degeneration. She’ll monitor spatial decline not only associated with normal aging but with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
“Using birds offers a unique opportunity to study the brain and its functions since their anatomy provides a natural split-brain situation. Therefore, the function of each hemisphere can be studied independently and repeatedly within the same animal while it navigates around its environment,” said Kelly, a recent recruit to the University of Manitoba.
Her CRC appointment was announced today at the University of Manitoba by Minister of State for Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher, coinciding with the national announcement in Ottawa.
Renewed support for four existing U of M Chairs was also announced. Chairholders are research leaders or rising stars in natural sciences and engineering, health sciences, or social sciences and humanities. The University of Manitoba has 49 Canada Research Chairs.
“This government is investing in research, science and technology to improve Canadians’ quality of life, create jobs and strengthen the economy,” said Minister Fletcher. “The Canada Research Chairs program is helping our universities develop, attract and retain talented people, strengthening our capacity for leading-edge research, while building economic opportunities and the jobs of the future for Canadians.”
The new funding is worth a combined $4.4 million plus infrastructure support.
“I congratulate the new and renewed Chairs,” said David Barnard, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba. “We are home to many outstanding scientists and scholars, and continue to be the chosen university for researchers who are leaders in their field.”
The four renewed Chairs are James Blanchard, Harvey Chochinov, Peter Loewen, and Verena Menec.
James Blanchard, Canada Research Chair in Epidemiology and Global Public Health, is investigating why some people get sick and other don’t, and why some communities are more at risk than others. The epidemiologist studies the local and global distribution of communicable and non-communicable diseases like HIV in India, and diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel disease in Canada. His research aims to better understand the underlying determinants of epidemics, and ultimately develop effective public health strategies to better allocate health services, and reduce disease spread.
Harvey Max Chochinov, Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care, will continue to conduct studies that are helping to shape and improve palliative care around the world. Chochinov’s work on dignity at end-of-life has provided new insights on how to understand, identify and address various sources of distress seen amongst the terminally ill. As Chair, Chochinov has become a pioneer in e-health by founding the Canadian Virtual Hospice, an online interactive network which provides support for about 1,000 Canadians daily.
Peter Loewen, Canada Research Chair in Protein Chemistry, does research that focuses on the structure and function of the proteins which play a key role in the promotion of health and the combating of disease. His work involves the characterization of cellular responses to oxidative stress, which occurs when reactive oxygen – commonly called ‘free radicals’ in health food stores – accumulates faster than it can be removed by our bodies. Loewen is also interested in the mechanisms by which a certain group of enzymes destroy hydrogen peroxide before it breaks down and damages cellular components.
Verena Menec, Canada Research Chair in Healthy Aging, looks at the relationship between the physical and social environment that people live in and their health. Menec’s goal is to make communities as age-friendly as possible in order to promote healthy, active aging. She identifies aging issues using creative techniques – for example, seniors are equipped with cameras to record age-friendly features and barriers in their community. Menec’s research is done in partnership with government to increase the likelihood it will influence policy, programs and services.
Chochinov and Loewen were each awarded a $1.4 million Tier 1 Chair over seven years. Blanchard, Kelly, and Menec each received a $500,000 Tier 2 Chair over five years. The new CRC will also received $124,952 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The foundation is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure.
For more information contact Janine Harasymchuk, research communications & marketing manager, (204) 474-7300, or cell: (204) 799-4802 (email@example.com).