Published on November 2nd, 2017 | from CAMH

A Window into the Brain

By Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO, CAMH

During my interview for the position of President and CEO at CAMH a little over 8 years ago, I asked the committee that interviewed me: “what will it take to galvanize society to a mental health movement, in the way that we’ve declared a war on cancer?” There were two or three seconds of silence before Dr. Bruce Pollock, our VP of Research, replied: “It will take hope.” He went on to say that the hope will come from a better understanding of the origins of mental illness – through research and scientific breakthroughs.

Discovery is one of the foundational pillars of the CAMH mission. One of our strategic directions reads “Ignite Discovery and Innovation” and our promise is that “we will know what causes mental illness.” That’s why CAMH is working to attract international researchers. It’s why we hope to continue adding to our network of Innovation Centres.  It’s why we’re receiving international recognition for our research in brain science.

This recognition is the result of years of advocacy from people like Dr. Pollock and his predecessors. It’s because of the vision and dedication of scientists and researchers like Drs. Vivian Rakoff, Alan Wilson and Sylvain Houle – the leaders of our first Innovation Centre, the PET research facility at the Clarke Institute.

Their foresight about the power of functional imaging and radiochemistry to change the face of mental illness means that the CAMH Research Imaging Centre has been developing radiotracers that give us insight into the function and dysfunction in the human brain. Through the use of brain imaging, the Centre’s researchers have identified mechanisms related to mental illness, such as brain inflammation in people with depression. They’ve discovered potential targets for novel treatments, like a dietary supplement to prevent post-partum depression. These findings have brought the impact of research to real people.

Yesterday CAMH announced that thanks to an $11 million gift from the Azrieli Foundation, we are now home to the Azrieli Centre for Neuro-Radiochemistry. The new Centre will build on our Research Imaging Centre’s internationally recognized contributions and enable us to recruit more specialists, develop more radiotracers, acquire state of the art technology and create an endowed Azrieli Chair in Brain and Behaviour.

The gift has also supported the recruitment of Dr. Neil Vasdev as the inaugural Director of the Centre, who began his scientific career at CAMH. Most recently he was Director of Radiochemistry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.

While the groundwork for today’s announcement has been laid over decades, the visionary generosity of the Azrieli Foundation will take it to a new level and we’re grateful for their support.

This is one more reason to be hopeful!

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One Response to A Window into the Brain

  1. This is very hopeful news. I agree that hope will come from a better understanding of mental illness. A better understanding of mental illness will also help address discrimination and stigma. It is wonderful that there are such generous donors as the Azrieli Foundation.

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