Mark Agius, UCalgary
June 14, 2023
New award supports the next big stars in concussion research
Concussion is a critical area of brain research, and deservedly so. With hundreds of thousands of Canadians experiencing one each year, and tens of millions worldwide, they can happen to anyone, at any age through a variety of causes. The University of Calgary is a global leader in concussion research and through a generous philanthropic gift, the university is taking an important step to support up-and-coming researchers who are working to uncover the next big discoveries.
The Accelerating Research in Concussion (ARC) Award will support early- to mid-career researchers who are taking innovative approaches and exploring novel ways to better understand brain mechanisms related to concussion. Two $100,000 awards will be distributed annually for the next five years.
Funds can be used for a range of costs, from hiring graduate students or other personnel to purchasing equipment or recruiting research participants. All of this will help unleash new ideas from rising stars who are establishing themselves in brain and concussion research. Applications for the first awards are now open and interested candidates have until Aug. 15 to apply.
The award, made possible by a generous gift from a family foundation, will support research projects from UCalgary researchers who are thinking innovatively. The foundation chose to support UCalgary because of its enterprising spirit.
“We wanted this gift to support an institution that harnesses entrepreneurial thinking in concussion,” says the donor. “That’s why we were drawn to the University of Calgary. They are willing to take risks and invest in ideas that are not yet proven but have the potential for common good.”
UCalgary is leading the way in brain and concussion research
For the past two decades, UCalgary has been ranked a top institution globally in paediatric concussion research; it has more than 30 experts focused on this area of research, including five Canada Research Chairs; and is ranked top-four for total publications and citations in concussions worldwide.
“UCalgary is well positioned to address the concussion problem,” says Dr. David Park, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine. “We have the talent, the resources and the entrepreneurial drive to help answer some of the biggest questions around brain trauma and unlock new discoveries.”
With its expertise in neuroscience, injury prevention, epidemiology, population health, diagnostic imaging, psychology and exercise physiology, UCalgary researchers are addressing concussion through transdisciplinary collaboration and preparing the next generation of researchers and clinicians.
UCalgary’s Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP), led by Dr. Keith Yeates, PhD, and Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD, is an authority in research into prevention, diagnosis, prediction of recovery and treatment. Further strengthening this area of study, programs like the Surveillance in High School and Community Sport to Reduce Concussions (SHRed) work to better understand and prevent brain injuries in high school athletes and reaches youth directly in their communities through the SHRed mobile.
Yeates and Emery also lead the Canadian Concussion Network, a nationwide group that connects expertise from across Canada and allows research to translate into real-world applications faster.
Understanding concussion better to create a healthier community
Head trauma can happen in any number of ways, and there is so much uncertainty still about what symptoms a patient will experience and how long the symptoms will last.
“There is still much to discover in this area of brain research. The ARC award will support early-stage researchers who have a great idea but need that extra lift to take it to the next level,” says Yeates. “It will support the advancement of innovative and unchartered research ideas.”
With head trauma, a health problem that can be hugely disruptive to someone’s way of life causing symptoms like headaches, dizziness, brain fog, mental health problems, and possibly even dementia, it has been described as a silent epidemic.
“There are so many answers still to be discovered in concussion,” says the donor. “The next ideas that are going to make impactful breakthroughs are still to be discovered. We want to give upcoming researchers the support they need to bring those ideas to fruition.”
Interested candidates can visit the Accelerating Research in Concussion website to apply.
The Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary consists of more than 300 scientists and clinician-scientists who are dedicated to advancing brain and mental health research and education. The institute is leading research toward a better understanding of the brain and nervous system and new treatments for neurological and mental health disorders, aimed at improving quality of life and patient care. Learn more about the HBI.
The Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP) is a university-wide initiative to study concussion, bringing together experts from the Cumming School of Medicine, Faculty of Kinesiology, and Faculty of Arts, with support from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). Community donations through the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation funded the creation of the ICRP and provide continuing support.