Category: Research


Tracking the brain health of retired pro hockey players

“There has been a lot of attention on repeated concussions and neurodegenerative disease, particularly in post-mortem samples of ex-athletes, but there is a need for more comprehensive assessment of mental and behavioral changes during life. This longitudinal study will allow us to track changes over time to better understand aging and brain health in retired professional athletes.”

-Dr. Brian Levine, neuropsychologist and senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute

Researchers at Baycrest Health Sciences’ Rotman Research Institute have reported the most comprehensive neuropsychological study of retired professional ice hockey players to date.

They found that the alumni involved in the study, most of whom played in the NHL, were free from significant brain impairment on objective testing. Yet the players reported a high level of emotional, behavioural and cognitive challenges on questionnaires rating subjective complaints.

The ongoing study led by Dr. Brian Levine focuses on retired professional ice hockey players’ cognitive and behavioural functioning in relation to their age, concussion history, and genetic risk. Find out more about the study’s findings and next steps.


Road to Connection: arts-based lifeline for caregivers of people…

“We created a new program for people living with mild to moderate dementia and their spouses. Dementia can cause a real strain on relationships, so we’ve designed this program to help both caregivers and their partner with dementia find new ways to communicate. This is the first time we’ve paired an arts based program for people with cognitive challenges with a support group for caregivers. It’s important for people to know that they’re not alone and that help is available to support them through this new stage in their relationship.”

– Renee Climans, Social Worker and Therapist at Baycrest Health Sciences

The Road to Connection weaves together three evidence-based interventions into a combined model that provides an emotionally focused psychosocial group intervention for the spouses of people with dementia and a separate group which melds arts based and cognitive interventions for their partners. The ultimate goal of this program is to decrease the burden that some family caregivers feel, while increasing the quality of life for both the family care provider and the person with dementia, and decreasing premature institutionalization of people affected by dementia. Offering this innovative program has helped Baycrest clinicians increase their knowledge about evidence-based targeted interventions for people with dementia. This program was made possible with support from the Hy and Bertha Shore and Harry and Sara Gorman Award and the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation.



Pilot program succeeds in reducing stressful emergency department visits

“Every year in Ontario, thousands of long-term care home residents are taken by ambulance to emergency departments of acute-care hospitals. In addition to the costs, clients often face delays for many hours before receiving attention. The hospital visits can also add to clients’ anxiety and discomfort, and puts them at risk for further illness through exposure to other sick patients in waiting rooms. For these reasons, this past year Baycrest piloted a program to reduce unnecessary emergency department transfers and we’ve been thrilled with the response from our staff and clients.”

– Sue Calabrese, Director of Care and Resident Experience for the Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged

Thanks to a very generous five-year pledge from the Menkes Family, Baycrest launched the Reducing Unnecessary Emergency Department Transfers pilot project. The results have been impressive: emergency department transfers decreased from 21.5 visits/100 residents a year ago to 18.8 visits/100 residents over the past year. This is considerably better than the Toronto Central average for long-term care homes, which is 26.3 visits/100 residents.

On average, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says that 30 per cent of visits to the emergency department from long-term care facilities are potentially avoidable. Baycrest is determined give focused attention to initiatives aimed at reducing this statistic.

Glee Club, Seniors, Older Adults, Baycrest, Singing, Couple, hits, Elvis, Sinatra Care

The halls at Baycrest are alive with the sound…

“When the Buddy’s Glee Club first began as a small research project in our day centre back in 2011, we had no idea how popular the club would become. Participants enjoyed singing so much, they asked us to keep it going and as the research study expanded, new Glee Clubs were created across the Baycrest campus.  Currently, there are Buddy’s Glee Clubs in the Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged, and in both day centres. Music therapists act as the conductors for each group, which allows us to customize every session for the unique needs of each group. We’ve seen many Glee Club members make new friendships and strengthen relationships with caregivers, family members and friends.”

– Kiki Chang, Music Therapist, Department of Culture and Arts at Baycrest Health Sciences

Featuring songs from the 1950s and 1960s, Buddy’s Glee Clubs have been a part of life at Baycrest for the past six years. Each week, groups of older adults with a wide range of cognitive abilities gather in recreation rooms and shared spaces at Baycrest to sing hits from artists such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and from popular Broadway musicals. Music therapists choose songs to match the moods, emotions, and memories of each group and often pause rehearsals to jump into discussions about the histories of the musicians, songs and the participants’ own histories in relation to music. This program is made possible thanks to the generous support of an anonymous donor.

Music is a part of everyday life in other ways too. Many philanthropic families enable Baycrest to present concerts for patients, residents and their families. Thank you to Hugh Furneaux, who generously joined the group this year by sponsoring our Sunday Concert Series.


Laser walker, robotic exoskeleton improve mobility

“We are constantly testing, evaluating and investing in new innovations at the Jeff and Diane Ross Movement Disorders Clinic. Our goal is to match new technologies with our clients’ pathologies and to improve people’s quality of life. This past year, we received a research grant from the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation to develop a laser walker and we have partnered with the University of New Brunswick to test a robotic exoskeleton suit that we believe will help people with degenerative neurological conditions continue walking. We hope to develop new clinical protocols that can be used around the world to help clients walk and move independently and stave off the physical decline experienced with neurological diseases. We are extremely grateful to all of our donors and the funding agencies that allow us to create these innovative solutions for people at Baycrest, all over the province of Ontario, and Canada.”

– Pearl Gryfe, Clinical and Managing Director of the Assistive Technology Clinic and the Jeff and Diane Ross Movement Disorders Clinic

Drawing on the strength of an expert interprofessional team, the Jeff and Diane Ross Movement Disorders Clinic helps thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders to live independently in their own homes or comfortably in assisted living communities. The clinic operates in partnership with the Assistive Technology Clinic (ATC), a recognized leader in innovative rehabilitation, and provides progressive medical and rehabilitative care and treatment and is also a source for innovative technologies to help enhance the ability to move, function and improve quality of life. ATC is funded in part by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and a number of generous donors and grants.


Cogniciti plays central role in pharma’s fight against dementia

“Cogniciti’s online brain health assessment offers Baycrest the chance to play a central role in the development of the next generation of Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Finding the right research volunteers for studies has been a major problem. Through Cogniciti, users can now join a Research Registry designed to use their test results to match interested volunteers to the right studies.”

                                                                    -Michael Meagher, President and CEO of Cogniciti

The free, scientifically-validated test, developed by Rotman Research Institute scientists, can help adults 40+ determine if their memory changes should be evaluated by a doctor.

Over the past year, Cogniciti has signed agreements to recruit for two global drug studies and two non-drug studies at the Rotman Research Institute, all focused on therapies designed to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Since its launch in 2013, more than 55,000 assessments were completed.

Take Cogniciti’s free online Brain Health Assessment or join the Research Registry at



A Canadian first: community-based affordable hearing care

“Our program is tailored to serve older adults with unmanaged hearing loss and consists of education and counselling around hearing and communication combined with low-cost, over-the-counter hearing devices. Only 20 per cent of those with hearing loss use hearing aids and this program will help those who have not previously sought help or who have difficulty accessing the current system.”

-Marilyn Reed, Practice Advisor for Audiology, Baycrest Health Sciences

The Toronto HEARS (Hearing Equality through Accessible Research and Solutions) project is the first Canadian community-based, low-cost, hearing rehabilitation program of its kind that will provide older adults easier access to affordable hearing care in their community.

Hearing loss is the third most common disability among older adults and is associated with declines in cognitive, physical and mental health. The average period between identifying hearing loss and seeking help is 10 years.

Baycrest’s Audiology department is partnering with community centres across Toronto to deliver and test the feasibility of Toronto HEARS, a program developed at Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The project aims to improve communication, social engagement and quality of life for seniors with hearing loss.

This program was generously funded by the Canadian Centre for Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI).


Funding helps Baycrest scientists pursue new brain health research

Funding from donors and grant agencies aids our scientists in pursuing innovative research projects to improve understanding of the brain and develop interventions for healthy aging.

Scientists received generous support from many donors this past year including Leonard and Micki Moore Simpson, the Rotman family, Barrie Rose and Karen Solomon and family, Robert and Mona Sherkin, the Tanenbaum family and the estate of David Durbin.

Below are a few of the grants received by our researchers and the projects supported this past year.

  • Dr. Jean Chen received support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop non-invasive brain-imaging techniques tailored towards older adults. These are expected to alert doctors earlier to a person’s risk of developing certain brain diseases.
  • Dr. Brian Levine received support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to examine how differences in memory ability might relate to memory changes during aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Dr. Deirdre Dawson received support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention that could help older adults preserve their independence for longer.
  • Dr. Brian Levine received support from the Heart and Stroke Foundation to convert his rehabilitation program into a web-based training program that can be delivered remotely to stroke patients.
  • Dr. Jed Meltzer received support from the Heart and Stroke Foundation to test the effectiveness of brain stimulation on stroke patients. This will will help in the development of a quick evaluation of a variety of interventions, such as drugs, brain stimulation and therapy.
  • Dr. Raquel Meyer and Jennifer Reguindin received support from the Canadian Centre for Brain Health and Aging (CC-ABHI) to help healthcare workers better learn to detect and communicate acute deterioration in older adults with dementia. Their SOS gamified educational app is one element in a multipronged approach to help avoid or reduce unnecessary emergency department visits. Seed funding was generously provided by Glenn and Tracie Graff, SIM-One and the Government of Ontario.
  • Dr. Kelly Murphy received support from the Canadian Centre for Brain Health and Aging (CC-ABHI) to improve access and educate healthcare professionals around the world on Baycrest’s Learning the Ropes program. This program helps patients with mild cognitive impairment optimize their cognitive health.

Scientists recognized for excellence nationally and internationally

Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) is home to world-renowned scientists who discover and explore potential predictors and targeted interventions for neurodegenerative diseases.

Below is a list of scientists who were recognized for their contributions this past year:


Scientists discover link between what we see and how…

“It seems counterintuitive to use the eyes to screen for memory problems, but these systems are so nicely coupled that it makes sense to use eye-tracking to evaluate memory. Our neuroimaging and eye-tracking study demonstrates there could be a cyclical relationship between the eyes and memory that continually feeds information back and forth.”

– Dr. Jennifer Ryan, senior investigator on the study and senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute (RRI).

Baycrest researchers have uncovered an important link between eye movements and the brain’s memory system that bolsters the case for using eye-tracking technology to evaluate memory problems and aid in earlier detection of dementia.

This is the first time researchers have used neuroimaging to show a direct functional connection between the oculomotor network (the brain system controlling the eye’s movements) and the brain’s hippocampus (a structure in the brain crucial to creating memories) in healthy adults.

This work supports their development of an eye-tracking cognitive assessment that could one day help doctors evaluate cognitive decline in clients. Find out more about their recent findings here.