Brain Canada Fellows

Our joint fellowship with Brain Canada brought together an exceptional and diverse group of trainees focused on different aspects of brain development – from origins, to early detection, to effective treatment.

Seventeen trainees were awarded this two year fellowship in 2015, and in 2018. Some research topics being studied include: identifying early markers of ASD in at-risk infants, early postnatal metabolic treatment for the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and uncovering early neurocognitive risk factors for mathematical learning disorders.

This talented group of awardees consists of trainees with high potential to become leaders in their field as well as highly collaborative researchers that will stay engaged in the Network and in the research and stakeholder communities.

2018-2020 Brain Canada- Kids Brain Heath Training Fellows

Aya_SasakiTrainee: Aya Sasaki, PhD. Postdoctoral fellow, University of Toronto

Fellowship Project: In utero exposure to glucocorticoids in humans and an animal model: Epigenetic and transcriptional signatures

Project Description: My research will study blood obtained from babies shortly after birth and in guinea pigs early in life to discover how genes throughout the genome respond to glucocorticoid treatment. This research has important implications for our fundamental understanding of biological responses to glucocorticoid treatment. We anticipate that this study will ultimately inform clinical practice in Canada, where a majority of women at risk of preterm birth (more than 10% of all pregnancies) are treated with glucocorticoids in pregnancy.

BioSketch: My overall research theme as a graduate student and now postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto has been looking at the effects of early life exposures (such as glucocorticoid treatment, stress, high fat diet and cocaine) on brain mechanisms in animal models and humans. My passion has been translational research using animal models and human cohorts so that the research outcomes can directly benefit our understanding of the effects of environmental factors, promote preventative medicine and inform public policy.

Ayesha_SiddiquaTrainee: Ayesha Siddiqua, PhD Candidate, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University

Fellowship Project: Social determinants of prevalence, health service use, and developmental outcomes of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A population-level study

Project Description: My research is examining the relationship between neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage with prevalence, health service use, and developmental outcomes of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research shows that health is unevenly distributed across socioeconomic status (SES) – those living in poverty tend to have poorer health. It has been suggested that characteristics of individuals (e.g. individual SES) do not explain inequalities in health outcomes in a population. There is growing recognition that characteristics of groups, such as characteristics of neighbourhoods, may be the most important determinants of health of a population – which speaks to the importance of examining the impact of neighbourhood SES on the health of children with ASD.

BioSketch: I began my graduate career with an interest in early school experiences at McMaster University working with Dr. Magdalena Janus, where I focused on kindergarten transition processes and outcomes for children with special needs for my Masters. While working in both academic and industry settings post graduation, I developed an interest in using administrative data to study health patterns. This led me to pursue my PhD with Dr. Janus, examining heath issues of children with ASD using population wide child development, Canadian Census, Taxfiler, as well as health service utilization databases. In my spare time, I like to remain actively involved in the McMaster community. I am the graduate student ambassador for my PhD program and the vice president of the McMaster International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) Chapter. I also volunteer as a mentor in the Undergraduate STEM Fellowship Program

Mathilde_ChevinTrainee: Mathilde Chevin, PhD Candidate, McGill University

Fellowship Project: Interleukin-1 blockade along with hypothermia to prevent cerebral palsy arising from refractory neonatal asphyxia

Project Description: Neonatal asphyxia and subsequent cerebral palsy (CP) is a severe pathology resulting from lack of oxygen and/or infection-inflammation. This disease still leads to mortality or severe brain injuries and long-term disabilities. Therapeutic hypothermia (decreased body temperature to 33-34°C during 3 days) is the only treatment available for these newborns. Despite hypothermia treatment, more than 50% of these newborns present neurological sequelae. This highlights the need to look for new neuroprotective treatments. Our research tests the hypothesis of the efficacy of a targeted anti-inflammatory compound (namely, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, blocking the action of a key natural inflammatory molecule called interleukin-1 (IL-1)) combined with hypothermia to prevent neonatal cerebral injuries resulting from lack of oxygen and/or infection around birth. Our results will provide a better understanding about harmful interactions between our immune and nervous systems. This project will pave the way towards new therapeutic avenues to prevent CP.

BioSketch: I started my undergrad degree in Biochemistry in France at the Université de Lille 1 and moved to Quebec to achieve my educational and future career goals: to be a researcher in the field of Neuroscience. During my graduate studies at the Université de Sherbrooke and McGill University my interests moved toward Developmental Neuroscience and how we can provide new treatments for newborns suffering from brain injuries. In addition to my studies I am a volunteer in several organizations that aim to teach science and develop critical thinking and curiosity in children in primary and secondary schools. I am also part of a bateria (Brazilian music group) that meets during sports, charity, and music events in the city of Montreal.

Marie-Eve_BrienTrainee: Marie-Eve Brien, PhD Student, Centre de recherche de l’Hôpital Sainte-Justine, Université de Montréal

Fellowship Project: Non-infectious inflammation induced by uric acid during pregnancy and the impact on child neurodevelopment

Project Description: My research focuses on how inflammation, without an infection, can alter brain development when a baby was exposed during pregnancy. I investigate how this sub-optimal prenatal environment programs the developing brain for neurodevelopmental disorders through inflammation in the placenta.

BioSketch: During my undergraduate studies, I had the chance to explore several areas of research and I fell in love with the study of the immune system particularly in the complex setting of pregnancy. I therefore begun my master degree at the Université de Montréal in this field, in the laboratory of Dr Sylvie Girard working on the impact of inflammation during pregnancy, the impact on the placenta leading to pregnancy complications and altered babies brain development. I then fast-tracked to a PhD in which I combined my two fields of interest; Neuroscience and Immunology to understand how inflammation during pregnancy affects the developing brain of the baby.

Lara_Eid-fellowTrainee: Lara Eid, Postdoctoral Fellow, CHU Sainte-Justine/Université de Montréal

Fellowship Project: Cortical GABAergic interneurons migration impairment in genetic epileptic encephalopathies

Project Description: My project aims at elucidating the roles of new candidate genes in brain development, particularly in the context of refractory paediatric epilepsies (epileptic encephalopathies) and co-morbid neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and intellectual deficiency. We are particularly interested in a small population of inhibitory neurons, namely the cortical GABAergic interneurons, which are crucial in maintaining the balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity in the brain. A better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the function of these genes in the brain, particularly in GABAergic interneuron development, will open the path to new personalized therapeutic targets, which will greatly improve the neurological outcome of children with epileptic encephalopathies with or without autism and intellectual deficiency.

BioSketch: As a PhD student, I worked under the supervision of Drs Martin Parent and André Parent at Université Laval in Quebec City where I focused on the neuroanatomical organisation of the primate globus pallidus, a basal ganglia nucleus involved in Parkinson’s disease. Since 2016, I have been working in the lab of Dr. Elsa Rossignol at the CHU Sainte-Justine, affiliated to Université de Montréal, as a postdoctoral fellow. My research interests have now shifted towards better understanding the genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders, including epilepsies, autism and intellectual deficiency. I am also the mother of a beautiful little girl and my favorite activity is to travel to new places with my family.

Kaela_SheaTrainee: Kaela Shea, Ph.D. Student, Bloorview Research Institute

Fellowship Project: PBrain-Computer Interface Integrated Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Project Description: My research looks at a new method to interface with communication devices through brain activity. A brain interface provides access for individuals with brain injury, or who are not typically developing, who experience limited voluntary muscle control. I will investigate the possibility of identifying preference between words as the user visually processes options. This will create faster and easier selection during use of a communication device for more fluid communication.

BioSketch: I started my academic career at the University of Guelph where, through Biomedical Engineering, I specialized in signal processing in conjunction with a foundation in anatomy and pathology. A Master’s degree at the University of Waterloo continued my education and launched me into research. There, I researched with Dr. James Tung focusing on developing novel signal processing methods to enable ambulatory electroencephalography (EEG) measurement for the application of fall prevention in the geriatric population. Begining a Ph.D. through the University of Toronto with the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, my research interests have switched ends of human development to focus on children. I am currently researching optimization of BCI and Machine Learning integration into AAC technology with Dr. Tom Chau.

Vivian_LeeTrainee: Vivian Lee, Postdoctoral Fellow, McMaster University

Fellowship Project: An Evaluation of the Acceptability of the Family Check-Up Intervention for Caregivers of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Project Description: My research looks at the acceptability of the Family Check-up (FCU) program for caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Family Check-up is a brief, evidence-based, assessment-driven intervention that uses a strength-based and motivational interviewing approach to engage caregivers in the prevention and treatment of child emotional and behavioural problems (EBP). Although this program has been well-studied in the United States, we are the first research group to investigate the utility of the FCU program in Canada, in addition to its acceptability for families of children with ASD, especially those with EBP. This project will have a significant impact on our understanding of how modifying and supporting parental practices may have on changing problem behaviors and other mediating factors that benefit children with ASD with EBPs in toddlerhood or early preschool years.

BioSketch: I completed my Ph.D. in Psychology at the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at McMaster University. My doctoral work involved the development of novel methodologies in the study of emotional facial perception in infants and toddlers. I also studied the relationship between early social perceptual abilities and later social cognitive skills. As a budding academic, I am currently a Brain Canada-Kids Brain Health Network Postdoctoral Fellow at the Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University. My research program includes the evaluation of the feasibility and acceptability of the Family Check-up program as an intervention for caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who also have emotional and behavioural problems. In addition, I am interested in how temperament and behavioural problems in children with ASD might influence their ability to participate in community sports and recreational programs, and the impact this lack of engagement might have on their overall well-being. My extracurricular interests include my love and passion for horses and dressage, and I am currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for a therapeutic horseback riding program (T.E.A.D) for children and youth with physical, cognitive, and behavioural challenges.

Hooshmandi- fellowTrainee: Mehdi Hooshmandi, PhD student, Integrated Programme in Neuroscience (IPN), McGill University.

Fellowship Project: Dysregulation of integrated stress response (ISR) pathway in Fragile X syndrome and autism.

Project Description: Our research is focused on role of the integrated stress response (ISR) pathway in fragile X syndrome as well as autism. We are aiming to figure out the exact ISR pathway abnormalities in different cell types and regions of the brain. Once the altered molecule(s) is identified, we will be able to manipulate the pathway pharmacologically. Moreover, we may find a potential biomarker for early diagnosis of neurodevelopmental diseases including fragile X syndrome and autism.

BioSketch: During my master’s degree at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Iran, I focused particularly on courses related to neuroscience, physiology, and psychology. For my thesis, I looked at the role of the orexin type-1 receptors in morphine dependence and synaptic plasticity. I began to study synaptic plasticity in depth. Knowing that most of the major alterations and events in the brain occur during development, this ignited my fervent interest in neurodevelopmental-related research and motivated me to pursue a doctorate’s degree in neuroscience, specifically neurodevelopmental disorders. I have decided to join the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN) at McGill University to study molecular mechanisms that underlie neurodevelopmental diseases including fragile X syndrome and autism. I was very excited to find a young and dynamic team led by Dr. Khoutorsky at McGill University that is conducting research on the topic that will allow me to follow my interest and to study how the abnormalities in the control of protein synthesis contribute to the childhood neurodevelopmental diseases. For my project in Dr. Khoutorsky’s lab, I will study the role of one of the major signaling pathways regulating protein synthesis which is controlled via eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2), in fragile X syndrome and autism.

alexandra decker- fellowTrainee: Alexandra Decker, PhD Student, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto

Fellowship Project: Testing white matter’s influence on neural communication and memory: a combined structural and functional neuroimaging study

Project Description: I am interested in understanding how white matter development enables and constrains neural communication, which in turn, facilitates our ability to encode new memories. I will also examine how damage to white matter during development impairs neural communication, and thereby weakens the brain’s ability to manifest optimal states for memory encoding and retrieval. I am currently developing a behavioural task to probe the influence of attention on memory encoding. This task will ultimately be used in combination with structural and functional neuroimaging techniques (DTI, MEG) to understand the neural signatures that facilitate memory formation. This research will help us better understand the importance of healthy white matter development in driving optimal neural and cognitive states for memory formation.

BioSketch: I began my graduate career with an interest in clinical psychology at the University of Toronto, working with Dr. Don Mabbott at the Hospital for Sick Children. Here, I developed an interest in how the structure and function of the brain interact, and the influence that brain damage has on neural communication and cognition. I am now working on my PhD with Drs. Amy Finn and Katherine Duncan at the University of Toronto. Here, I am studying how shifts in our ability to sustain attention may enable and constrain our ability to form new memories. My extracurricular interests include reading and writing opinion pieces on the blog/publishing site Medium, running in the ravine, learning to play the piano, and making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Schlienger Sabrina- fellowTrainee: Sabrina Schlienger, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), McGill University

Project Title: Characterisation of a novel medulloblastoma tumor suppressor

Project Description: Medulloblastoma is a pediatric cancer of the brain and is the most common solid tumor in children. Currently, the standard therapy for medulloblastoma remains nonspecific to the cancer subtype and consists of surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or craniospinal irradiation. Due to these treatments, affected children are left with permanent side effects such as severe neurological deficits. The development of some medulloblastoma tumors depends on the signaling pathway of a molecule known as Sonic hedgehog (Shh). My research aims to explore how tumor suppressor mutations collaborate with Shh signaling to promote tumor formation. Gaining a better understanding of how these genes act on medulloblastoma tumorigenesis may lead to the development of novel and more effective targeted therapies to treat medulloblastoma. Hopefully the identification of these new therapeutic targets will improve the survival and quality of life of the patients.

BioSketch: After obtaining a License in biology, I wanted to further develop my knowledge of fundamental research. Eager to perform biomedical research, I obtained a Master’s degree from the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. As my primary research interests were cancer and pharmacology, I chose the laboratory of Dr. Audrey Claing, an expert in the field of cell signaling and molecular pharmacology at Université de Montréal. My PhD project was to study the role of the GTPase ARF1 in the invasion of breast cancer cells. Becoming a parent during my PhD helped me realize how much I want to work on child health and particularly on pediatric cancer. I was attracted to Dr. Charron’s laboratory because of their outstanding research on medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer that affects mostly children. In my free time I enjoy improvisation, which gives me an opportunity to practice public speaking, and ultimately improves my ability to communicate my work.

Chakraborty - fellowTrainee: Dr Arijit Chakraborty, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, The University of British Columbia & BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Project Title: Neurophysiological basis of amblyopia and its treatment

Project Description: Amblyopia (commonly known as “lazy eye”) is a common developmental visual disorder, caused by eye misalignment, unequal refractive error between two eyes, or visual deprivation, with lifelong consequences on learning and academic achievements that we do not fully understand. It affects 4.7% of Canadian children, and 22-41% of children do not respond to conventional treatment. The proposed study aims to improve our understanding and treatment of amblyopia by looking at aspects of vision that are known to be disrupted by amblyopia but are not currently part of the clinical definition. Behavioral and neuroimaging measures will be used with children and adolescents. The goal is to identify the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying treatment outcomes, which in future will allow clinicians to recommend specific treatment strategies depending on the deficits with which a child presents.

BioSketch: I received my undergraduate and postgraduate Optometry training from India. My doctoral studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand focused on exploring visual development in children born at perinatal risks (neonatal hypoglycemia and prenatal drug exposure). I used clinical and behavioral vision experiments to measure higher visual functions. Later during my Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Waterloo, in collaboration with The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto, I used neuroimaging (structural and functional MRI, and magnetoencephalography) to unravel the neural circuit in children who had one of their eyes surgically removed due to retinoblastoma, a rare ocular tumor. The outcome of this study helped addressing the effect of complete disruption of visual and neural inputs from one eye on subsequent visual development. In addition, I used non-invasive brain stimulation techniques and neuroimaging to study higher visual processing in individuals with typical and atypical vision. Currently, at The University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, I am studying brain plasticity by using amblyopia (commonly called, “lazy eye”) as a model of sensory neural deprivation.
Outside academia, I am involved in working with non-governmental organizations towards uplifting child education and improving health care system in developing countries.

Malvina- FellowTrainee: Malvina N. Skorska, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Project Title: Effects of Sex Hormone Therapy on Brain Development in Adolescents Experiencing Gender Dysphoria: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Project Description: Adolescence is a time of rapid brain maturation that is partly influenced by sex hormones. In this project, I will use magnetic resonance imaging to assess the influence of sex hormones on brain structure and function. Specifically, I will examine how the brain structure and function of adolescents who experience gender dysphoria (i.e., adolescents who experience themselves as the other gender) differs from that of adolescents who do not experience gender dysphoria. Additionally, I will document how the adolescent brain responds to sex hormone therapy. Some adolescents who experience gender dysphoria utilize sex hormone therapy. Because sex hormone therapy directly influences the sex hormones that are already in the body, this project will provide insight regarding how sex hormones affect the adolescent brain. Surprisingly, even though sex hormone therapy is widely used to help adolescents who experience gender dysphoria change from one gender to the other, its impact on the brain is largely unknown. With this research I will also examine a very popular biological explanation of gender dysphoria, namely, that brain development is shifted in the direction of the other sex. Additionally, I will investigate whether there is a relationship between the structure of the brain and patterns of brain activity, as well as whether brain structure and function change together during sex hormone therapy.

BioSketch: My graduate career began working with Dr. Anthony Bogaert at Brock University on projects related to the development of sexual orientation. This research involved testing popular explanations of the development of sexual orientation related to sexual differentiation and the mother’s immune system. These explanations involve mechanisms related to the brain, however, I did not test the brain directly in my graduate work. Thus, it seemed a natural progression to begin working with Dr. Doug VanderLaan at the University of Toronto Mississauga on a neuroimaging project related to the brain development of adolescents who experience gender dysphoria during the postdoctoral years. With this project I am able to explore the role that sexual differentiation has in gender dysphoria, including directly measuring brain structure and function and sex hormones during adolescence, a critical period of brain development. My extracurricular activities involve volunteering at sporting, music, and science events, as well as maintaining an active lifestyle (e.g., hiking, skiing, running) and traveling.

silvia_orlandiTrainee: Silvia Orlandi, PhD, Post-doctoral fellow, Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

Project Title: Three-dimensional Video-based Analysis of Infant’s Movements for Early Detection of Motor Impairment

Project Description: The focus of my research is the development of novel technologies to support clinicians in the assessment and diagnosis of cerebral palsy and motor impairment by studying infants’ movements in the first months of life. I want to compare atypical and typical spontaneous movements using computer vision and machine learning techniques. A computer-based assessment will provide clinicians with an automatic and objective tool for the early detection of cerebral palsy to facilitate early intervention and improve functional outcomes.

BioSketch: I have been passionate about biomedical engineering in pediatrics since I was an undergraduate student. I began at the University of Florence, Italy, and my early career contributions were focused on the analysis of infant cry and hemodynamic signals in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Since then, I have decided to dedicate my career to the development of novel technologies for the early diagnosis of brain and neurodevelopmental disorders. During my graduate studies, I investigated infant cry and movements for the early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders and I developed a novel acquisition protocol for audio and video recording for clinical and home use. I pursued my PhD in bioengineering at the University of Bologna, Italy, collaborating with the Italian Ministry of Health. Under the supervision of Dr. Tom Chau, I am currently involved in several research projects focused on maximizing possibilities for children and youth with disabilities and special needs. These research experiences have led to the publication of more than 30 peer-reviewed articles.

Heather ShearerTrainee: Heather Shearer, PhD Student, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, CP Discovery Lab, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

Project Title: Understanding the relationship between pain trajectories in children and youth with cerebral palsy and their well-being: A cohort study

Project Description: This research will identify how pain changes over several weeks and will assess how these short-term pain trajectories impact self-reported physical and psychological well-being in children and youth with cerebral palsy. The proposed work aims to improve pain management and the clinical care for those with CP, while also expanding the evidence related to pain, well-being and disability in this population.

BioSketch: After completing my chiropractic degree and Clinical Fellowship, I began graduate school with an interest in the development of clinical prediction rules for recovery following musculoskeletal injuries. Under Dr. Pierre Côté’s supervision, I completed my MSc in Medical Science at the University of Toronto. During my years in research, I have been fortunate to work on projects related to disability and rehabilitation. This includes being a trial coordinator and project manager for a large industry-funded randomized clinical trial and two Ontario government funded projects focused on assessing interventions and developing evidence-informed guidelines for the management of traffic collision-related injuries. In recent years, my focus shifted toward the impact of developmental disorders on pediatric health and well-being. This interest coincided with my volunteer work at Grandview Children’s Center in Durham region. As a young scientist completing my PhD at the University of Toronto and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, I am excited to be working in an extremely supportive environment focusing on child health and well-being.

Campbell, KayleighTrainee: Kayleigh Campbell, PhD Candidate, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of British Columbia

Project Title: Early Brain Development Following Prenatal Exposure to SSRI Antidepressants and Maternal Depression

Project Description: Many women experience depression during pregnancy, and are often faced with challenging decisions surrounding antidepressant use during this critical time for their developing child. Fetal exposure to maternal antidepressant use is poorly understood, and further, the effects are often left undistinguished from those following exposure to untreated maternal depression. Thus, my research has two goals: (1) to determine the effects of antidepressant exposure during pregnancy on the developing brain in early life, and (2) to distinguish these effects from those of exposure to depressed maternal mood. Using non-invasive brain imaging techniques, I compare measures of brain development for antidepressant-exposed, depression-exposed, and non-exposed infants, first during the third-trimester of pregnancy and again within the first week after birth. I also study how these adverse early life exposures influence fetal and newborn behaviour. This work will provide new insight on early brain development, improve our understanding of developmental risk and resiliency, and help shape future management of maternal mental health and child outcome.

BioSketch: I initially became interested in early human development from seminars and lab work during my undergraduate studies at Queen’s University. During this time, I was also working in a clinical setting and engaged in volunteer work involving the support of mental health in a vulnerable population. My research interests stemmed from a unison of these fundamental personal experiences, and I pursued this further with graduate studies in the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences program at the University of British Columbia. My interests in the brain intensified when I was introduced to the power and complexity of neuroimaging, and how incredible it was to obtain this invaluable information on tiny 1-week-old newborns. My graduate studies have been challenging, fast-paced and exciting, and what was initially my master’s project grew into my PhD research. The rich interdisciplinary clinical research experiences I’ve gained from work with Drs. Oberlander, Rurak, et al. are the strong foundation on which my future pursuits in neonatal neuroimaging and the developmental origins of brain health will be based.

Trainee: Zeinab Mohanna

Project Title: CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Gene Therapy to Correct Aniridia in a Mouse Model

2015-2017 Brain Canada- Kids Brain Heath Training Fellows

paolo bTrainee: Paolo Bazzigaluppi, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Krembil Research Institute

Fellowship Project: Early postnatal metabolic treatment for the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Project Description: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the result of in utero alcohol exposure and is characterized by central nervous system developmental impairments which causes lifelong physical and cognitive disabilities. The mechanisms of the impaired brain development are poorly understood, but they seem to be related to the decreased levels of antioxidant defenses in the brain which ultimately causes neuronal death. With my project we aim to improve, in a preclinical model of FAS, neuronal survival and behavioral function by supplementing neuroprotective Ketone Bodies after birth. My project also explores the effects of ethanol on cross-frequency coupling between different brain-waves in the hippocampus and medial pre-frontal cortex, in the attempt to identify a biomarker of altered neuronal function.

lawrence chenTrainee: Lawrence M. Chen, PhD Student, McGill University

Fellowship Project: Maternal care and child neurodevelopment: A longitudinal gene x environment analysis of socio-emotional development with an integrated approach

Project Description: Maternal depression, particularly during pregnancy, has been well established as a risk factor for child socio-emotional problems. However, the impact varies across the population as some individuals are resilient. Their genetic architecture may hold the secrets to the differential susceptibility. My research looks at how genomic risk profile for neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders, particularly attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a highly heritable, childhood-onset disorder—moderates antenatal maternal influences on socio-emotional outcomes in children. Specifically, I follow the developmental course of a Canadian birth cohort (MAVAN) to understand how maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy interact with child genomic risk profile to predict their socio-emotional traits and psychopathological development. The project also aims to describe the biological pathways that play a key role in the interaction effect and how it associates with the developing brain. Overall, the project integrates approaches and techniques from genomics, psychology, neuroimaging, and informatics. Ultimately, the research can help lead to developing effective environmental interventions or even pharmaceutical treatments that target “susceptibility” genes or biological mechanisms to help individuals who are at a greater risk for neurodevelopmental and mental health problems.

Trainee: Andrea Constantinof, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Fellowship Project: The Effects of Antenatal Synthetic Glucocorticoids on Transcription and Methylation in the Developing Brain

Project Description: In my research, I studied how prenatal stress affects brain development over multiple generations of offspring. We examined changes in gene expression in different brain regions of exposed offspring to identify how prenatal exposure to stress hormone can change brain signaling. For this research, I employed big-data techniques that I am now using as a data scientist in industry.

Trish DomiTrainee: Trish Domi, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, the Hospital for Sick Children

Fellowship Project: Childhood stroke, stroke mechanisms, blood-brain barrier, multimodal neuroimaging

Project Description: Stroke is one of the leading causes of cerebral palsy in children that carried to term, and 60% have lifelong consequences. Currently, treatment of childhood stroke is limited to prevention of more strokes. My research uses specialized imaging techniques to study the role of the blood-brain barrier, a mechanism that can cause further injury to the brain caused by the stroke. Because we cannot yet study this in children, we did so in a juvenile rat model of stroke. I believe my research will provide new information about the function of the blood-brain barrier, as well as lead to the testing of treatment options that may be more effective, but cannot be currently used in childhood stroke because the risks are unknown.

Laura DonovanTrainee: Laura Donovan, Postdoctoral Fellow, The Hospital for Sick Children

Fellowship Project: Immunotherapy as a targeted low-impact treatment of paediatric brain cancers

Project Description: I am investigating the use of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-armed T cell based therapy as a potent and specific immunotherapy against paediatric medulloblastoma and ependymoma, by utilizing elegant in vivo and in vitro multimodal systems. My research could significantly influence the design of the next generation of clinical trials for children with brain tumours.

Sarah Hutchison (002)Trainee: Sarah Hutchison, PhD, postdoctoral fellow with BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia

Fellowship Project: Prenatal serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) antidepressant exposure on brain development, cognition and activity related risk for obesity: A longitudinal study with 10 year olds

Project Description: My training is in lifespan psychology and my research broadly focuses on children’s cognitive and social development. My current research project examines cognitive and health outcomes in children whose mothers were treated with antidepressant medication during pregnancy. About 10- 20% of women experience depressed mood during pregnancy and Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are the most prevalent medication for treating maternal mood disorders during pregnancy. This is an exciting contribution to my field of study because we do not know a lot about the long term impact of prenatal SRI exposure on children’s cognition and health.

Sara IzadiTrainee: Sara Izadi-Najafabadi, PhD. Student, University of British Columbia

Fellowship Project: Does rehabilitation improve brain structure/function and motor outcomes of children with developmental coordination disorder?

Project Description: My research focuses on the effect of Cognitive Orientation to Occupational Performance (CO-OP)—the current best-practiced intervention for children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)—on their structural and functional brain connectivity. It also explores how children with dual diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and DCD will respond to CO-OP. This study will contribute to our understanding of how current best-practice rehabilitation improves motor outcomes for children with DCD. Findings from my research may be applied to improve outcomes for children with other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Zsuzsa LindenmaierTrainee: Zsuzsa Lindenmaier, PhD Student, University of Toronto

Fellowship Project: Co-clinical trials of autism in mice and humans

Project Description: Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by social/communication deficits and repetitive behaviours. It is very heterogeneous, with over 250 genes implicated. The current therapeutic approach is frequently ineffective partly because a single treatment is often given to a heterogeneous patient population. This project will address the lack of individualized treatment in autism through a parallel co-clinical trial of promising autism treatments in mice and humans. Treatments will be oxytocin, a drug associated with increased social behaviours, and Tideglusib, a drug that acts on a protein downstream of the most common single gene cause of an autism-related disorder. Both humans (phase II clinical trial) and mice will be treated with promising drugs, and analyzed and compared on behavioural, genomic, and advanced, high-resolution imaging measures. Ultimately, we hope to make the first steps toward a personalized medicine approach in autism in which there are defined effective therapies for subpopulations of the disorder.

Graham LittleTrainee: Graham Little, PhD Student, University of Alberta

Fellowship Project: Combined analysis of brain magnetic resonance images towards patient specific diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Project Description: My current focus is on building computer software that can identify altered brain development patterns in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) using brain images. The aim is to create an objective tool that can detect atypical brain development and potentially monitor the effects of interventions. My goal is to be able to identify a brain signature of FASD that can help in diagnosis of prenatal exposure to alcohol, making it easier to provide the unique help and resources affected children and their families need.

Alexandre Lussier headshotTrainee: Alexandre Lussier, PhD, University of British Columbia

Fellowship Project: DNA methylation signatures in a rat model of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Project Description: Prenatal alcohol exposure can result in abnormal brain development, causing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which is linked to a number of cognitive, behavioural, and immune deficits that last across the lifetime. Although the lasting effects of alcohol on development are well studied, the molecular changes causing these deficits remain relatively unknown. Recent evidence suggests that modifications to DNA structure and regulation, known as epigenetic mechanisms, may play a role in the long-term effects of alcohol on the developing brain and could act as a signature of prenatal alcohol exposure. My work presents new evidence for DNA methylation, a small chemical mark added to DNA, as a mechanism in the long-term programming of immune and brain functions. Furthermore, it provides a framework for the use of DNA methylation as a marker of alcohol exposure to diagnose children at-risk for FASD and help lessen some of their long-term problems.

Trainee: Rebecca Merkley, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Western Ontario

Fellowship Project: Uncovering early neurocognitive risk factors for mathematical learning disorders

Project Description: Learning disorder diagnoses are dependent on behavioural assessments that cannot be administered until the school year ends. As such, children do not get access to extra attention and services they need until they have already fallen behind their peers. Gaining a better understanding of the aetiology and early risk factors of learning disorders is therefore crucial for optimising intervention and education. My research aims to identify neural and cognitive markers of risk for struggling with learning, math in particular. I am collecting longitudinal behavioural data in young children to map out learning trajectories and complementing this with fMRI investigations of the neural development of number processing.

Regula NeuenschwanderTrainee: Regula Neuenschwadner, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia

Fellowship Project: Developmental origins of stress and self-regulation and implications for interventions to improve childhood behaviour

Project Description: My research aims to explore how exposure to stress during pregnancy affects children’s development, specifically in relation to children whose mothers were depressed and/or on antidepressants during pregnancy. I am examining whether or not these children have problems with coping with stressful situations (cortisol responses), and if this in turn leads to difficulties in other domains such as the thinking process (executive functions). This project will shed light on pathways through which exposure to prenatal stress shapes developmental health and risks – the knowledge of which can be used to design interventions for children and mothers suffering from depression.

Trainee: Jelena Popic, Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University

Fellowship Project: Impaired translational regulation of brain development in autism spectrum disorders

Kathryn PostTrainee: Kathryn Post, PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia

Fellowship Project: A multi-platform approach to the functional assessment of ASD gene variants

Project Description: My research aims to elucidate the effects of de-novo point mutations found in ASD probands on protein function and neuron development. Using the model systems of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Xenopus laevis, I hope to use synthetic dosage screens and dynamic morphometric analysis respectively to better understand the implications of missense mutations on system development. Ultimately, the goal of this research is to identify gene variants associated with ASD which have altered protein function in an attempt to understand the underlying pathophysiology of ASD.

Sarah RazaTrainee: Sarah Raza, PhD Student, University of Alberta

Fellowship Project: The role of attention control and emotional regulation in the emergence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Identifying early markers of ASD in at-risk infants.

Project Description: My research focuses on early development in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with the goal of identifying behavioral and physiological markers in at-risk infants. I am interested in the role early attention and emotional regulation play in the emergence of autism, and anticipate that my research will shed light on the initial signs of ASD and provide insight into its diversity. Identifying these risk markers may advance early detection and diagnosis, as well as inform new avenues for intervention that may reduce or even prevent clinical expression of ASD.

Kamila SzulcTrainee: Kamila U. Szulc-Lerch, Postdoctoral Fellow, The Hospital for Sick Children

Fellowship Project: Recruitment of endogenous neural stem cells to promote brain repair following acquired brain injury in children

Project Description: My research investigates the potential of metformin and physical exercise to stimulate brain repair and cognitive recovery in children with brain tumours and mouse models of radiation induced brain injury and cerebral palsy. Metformin is a clinically approved medication in children and adults for type II diabetes that was previously shown to improve behavioural outcomes in mice through mechanisms involving endogenous neural stem cells (NPCs). My work investigates whether these newly discovered benefits of metformin, with or without coinciding exercise, also known to stimulate NPCs, could be harnessed to effectively promote neurocognitive recovery in clinical and preclinical models of childhood acquired brain injury (ABI). The results of this work will provide important, new data into how and to what extent injury related aberrant brain development can be corrected. Moreover, this research is also uniquely positioned to help shape future neuro-recovery programs for children with ABI by helping guide decisions as to whether the above interventions should be part of standardized clinical care. In addition, by shedding light on cellular, molecular and biochemical pathways that are stimulated by these interventions in mouse models this work will be of critical importance for the development of new, more effective medications for children with ABI and neurodevelopmental disorders in general.

yicheng xieTrainee: Yicheng Xie, Post-doctoral fellow, University of British Columbia

Fellowship Project: In vitro and in vivo functional assessment of neuropsychiatric disease related synaptic gene – MDGA.

Project Description: My research focuses on the functional assessment of neuropsychiatric disease related synaptic genes – MDGA1 and 2. MDGAs bind to critical neuron synaptic proteins – Neuroglin (NLGN), disrupting the binding between NLGN and Neurexin (NRXN), so suppressing synaptogenesis. Mutations (missense or truncation) of MDGA1 and 2 have been found in schizophrenic and autistic patients, respectively. I study the mechanisms of the selectivity of MDGA1 and 2, trying to decode the mechanisms of inhibition and excitation balance (E/I balance) in the brain. Moreover, using transgenic mice with conditional knockout of MDGA1 and 2, I will be able to functionally assess how MDGA1 and 2 deletion at different development stages could affect E/I balance in the brain with various in vivo electrophysiological and imaging tools. I hope my research could add to the basic neurological knowledges regarding how E/I balance is forming in the brain, and how the synaptic gene – MDGA regulates the excitability of the brain in mice.

Training Advisory Committee

KBHN Trainee Advisory Committee (TrAC) is a group of engaged trainees who provide advice and help develop training opportunities for our Trainee Network. TrAC activities include: monthly and periodic teleconferences, annual conference and training program workshops, and coordination of the upcoming KBHN Research Webinar Series.

Bio coming soon…
Bio coming soon…
Zachary BoychuckZachary Boychuck is a PhD Candidate and Faculty Lecturer at the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy at McGill University. Zachary’s doctoral research project, under the supervision of Dr. Annette Majnemer, is titled, “Creating knowledge translation tools to PROMPT earlier identification and referral of children with cerebral palsy”. The focus of this project is on the early-identification of cerebral palsy, and the aim is to create knowledge translation tools for primary-care practitioners (e.g. family physicians, pediatricians) and parents to increase awareness of the early-motor signs of cerebral palsy that should prompt simultaneous referral to a medical specialist for diagnosis and to rehabilitation specialists for intervention. Knowledge translation is an area of great interest and passion for Zachary. His doctoral research project uses an integrated knowledge translation approach, which involves engaging and collaborating with all relevant stakeholders in every aspect of the study. He is also a member of the Knowledge Translation Committee for CHILD-BRIGHT (Child Health Innovations Limiting Disability—Brain Research Improving Growth and Healthy Trajectories), a SPOR (Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research) network. Zachary has over a decade of clinical experience working in pediatric physical rehabilitation with children and young adults with complex motor and communication impairments, as well as in adult psychosocial rehabilitation, working primary with people living with schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. He has also been teaching across the psychosocial curriculum of the professional Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program at McGill since 2011.
Bio coming soon…
Bio coming soon…
Bio coming soon…
Alicia HilderleyAlicia recently commenced a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Adam Kirton. She first linked with Kids Brain Health Network while completing her PhD at the University of Toronto in Rehabilitation Sciences. Alicia’s research interests include neuroimaging and design and evaluation of movement interventions for children with cerebral palsy and perinatal stroke.
Sarah Hutchison (002)Dr. Sarah Hutchison is postdoctoral fellow at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia. She is currently supported by a Brain Canada and Kids Brain Health Network Developmental Neurosciences Research Training Award. Her project title is “Prenatal serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) antidepressant exposure on brain development, cognition and activity related risk for obesity: A longitudinal study with 10 year olds”. Dr. Hutchison completed her PhD in Lifespan Psychology from the University of Victoria in 2015 and her research broadly focuses on children’s cognitive and social development. Her research examines which factors influence optimal brain development and differences between children (e.g., children with second language exposure, children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). More recently, her research is examining prenatal antidepressant exposure in relation to children’s cognitive skills and health outcomes (e.g., physical activity, risk for developing obesity).
Sara IzadiSara Izadi-Najafabadi is a PhD candidate of Rehabilitation Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She works with Dr. Jill Zwicker on a project to investigate the effect of rehabilitation on brain function and structure of children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). She is also leading a project to investigate how transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)—a non-invasive brain stimulation—can help children with DCD to learn a functional motor task. Sara recently joined UBC Graduate Student Society as the Vice President University and Academic Affairs to introduce new opportunities and increase awareness of existing resources to UBC graduate students.
Jonathan LaiDr. Jonathan Lai (PhD) is Health Systems Impact Fellow at the Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and McGill University in Montreal. His current work seeks to understand the interface between research, health service delivery and policy in developmental brain-based conditions – bridging the gaps between neuroscience, mental health, primary care, and social innovation through systems thinking. Previously, Jonathan was a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Dr Jonathan Weiss at York University where he worked on identifying health and service needs for people with autism, the factors that influence service use, and predictors of changes in service use over time. During this time, he also worked with Autism Speaks Canada in a Kids Brain Health Network-funded practicum fellowship to link academic research and community practice.
Jonathan’s graduate training (MSc Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph; PhD Neuroscience, McMaster University) was in the biomedical aspects of autism and brain development. Funded consecutively by Ontario Mental Health Foundation and a Vanier Scholarship, his dissertation focused on understanding the link between the biology and behavioural phenotypes in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, which advanced understanding of the biology of autism subtypes.
Graham LittleGraham Little is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Alberta. Graham’s research under the supervision of Dr. Christian Beaulieu investigates changes in brain structure and function resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol. The aim of this research is to better understand the behavioral challenges experienced by those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) to more accurately diagnose FASD in the future. To this end Graham’s most recent research combines multiple brain measurements with advanced computational modelling to detect brain patterns capable of detecting children and adolescents with FASD. The hope is that this technology may be used in the future to improve FASD diagnosis providing more individuals access to the support and interventions they need.
Dr. Rebecca Merkley is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Numerical Cognition Lab in the Department of Psychology and Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario. Her research focuses on identifying early predictors and potential risk factors for mathematics learning in young children. She is particularly interested in preschoolers for both basic cognitive science and applied reasons. First, it is during this period in development that humans acquire symbolic representations of number, and this learning process is not yet well understood. Second, mathematics learning starts in the early years, and it is important to identify foundational numeracy skills with potential for impact on early years education. Dr. Merkley also works in partnership with schools and community organizations to disseminate findings from developmental science and aspires to help bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.
Sarah RazaSarah Raza is a PhD student in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta, under the supervision of Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum. She previously completed her MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, where she examined the role of early experiences on animal behavior, brain development, and plasticity. Her research pursuits have included examining the effects of prenatal drug exposure, executive function training, and therapeutic interventions on the developing brain and subsequent behavioral outcomes. Sarah is currently working on the Canadian Infant Sibling Study as part of her doctoral research. She hopes to better understand the developmental pathways and risk markers leading to the emergence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in at-risk infants, with particular emphasis on the reciprocal relationships between emotional regulation and attention control.
lori sacreyLori Sacrey received her PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, where she studied skilled reaching movements in neurotypical babies and adults, as well as adults with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Lori is now completing her Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta with Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum. Lori’s work focuses on visual attention during an eye gaze task and physiological indices of emotional regulation in infants at toddlers at risk for or diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Lori has been a member of TrAC since 2016 and is the 2018 Chair.

Training Policy and Advocacy Committee

KBHN Trainee Policy and Advocacy Committee (TPAC) are a nimble group of dedicated trainees interested in taking on Network related projects that give a voice to the trainee membership. They advocate for issues affecting awareness and changes for public policy and the needs of our research and care-giver communities.

Bio coming soon…
Bio coming soon…
Zachary BoychuckZachary Boychuck is a PhD Candidate and Faculty Lecturer at the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy at McGill University. Zachary’s doctoral research project, under the supervision of Dr. Annette Majnemer, is titled, “Creating knowledge translation tools to PROMPT earlier identification and referral of children with cerebral palsy”. The focus of this project is on the early-identification of cerebral palsy, and the aim is to create knowledge translation tools for primary-care practitioners (e.g. family physicians, pediatricians) and parents to increase awareness of the early-motor signs of cerebral palsy that should prompt simultaneous referral to a medical specialist for diagnosis and to rehabilitation specialists for intervention. Knowledge translation is an area of great interest and passion for Zachary. His doctoral research project uses an integrated knowledge translation approach, which involves engaging and collaborating with all relevant stakeholders in every aspect of the study. He is also a member of the Knowledge Translation Committee for CHILD-BRIGHT (Child Health Innovations Limiting Disability—Brain Research Improving Growth and Healthy Trajectories), a SPOR (Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research) network. Zachary has over a decade of clinical experience working in pediatric physical rehabilitation with children and young adults with complex motor and communication impairments, as well as in adult psychosocial rehabilitation, working primary with people living with schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. He has also been teaching across the psychosocial curriculum of the professional Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program at McGill since 2011.
Bio coming soon…
Alicia HilderleyAlicia recently commenced a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Adam Kirton. She first linked with Kids Brain Health Network while completing her PhD at the University of Toronto in Rehabilitation Sciences. Alicia’s research interests include neuroimaging and design and evaluation of movement interventions for children with cerebral palsy and perinatal stroke.
Jonathan LaiDr. Jonathan Lai (PhD) is Health Systems Impact Fellow at the Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and McGill University in Montreal. His current work seeks to understand the interface between research, health service delivery and policy in developmental brain-based conditions – bridging the gaps between neuroscience, mental health, primary care, and social innovation through systems thinking. Previously, Jonathan was a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Dr Jonathan Weiss at York University where he worked on identifying health and service needs for people with autism, the factors that influence service use, and predictors of changes in service use over time. During this time, he also worked with Autism Speaks Canada in a Kids Brain Health Network-funded practicum fellowship to link academic research and community practice.
Jonathan’s graduate training (MSc Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph; PhD Neuroscience, McMaster University) was in the biomedical aspects of autism and brain development. Funded consecutively by Ontario Mental Health Foundation and a Vanier Scholarship, his dissertation focused on understanding the link between the biology and behavioural phenotypes in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, which advanced understanding of the biology of autism subtypes.
Sarah RazaSarah Raza is a PhD student in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta, under the supervision of Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum. She previously completed her MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, where she examined the role of early experiences on animal behavior, brain development, and plasticity. Her research pursuits have included examining the effects of prenatal drug exposure, executive function training, and therapeutic interventions on the developing brain and subsequent behavioral outcomes. Sarah is currently working on the Canadian Infant Sibling Study as part of her doctoral research. She hopes to better understand the developmental pathways and risk markers leading to the emergence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in at-risk infants, with particular emphasis on the reciprocal relationships between emotional regulation and attention control.

Trainee Science Communications Committee

The KBHN Trainee Communications and Newsletter Editorial Staff are a growing group of trainees interested in gaining experience in public writing and sharing information across our trainee and researcher network. Their future focus will be working on trainee newsletters.

lori sacreyLori Sacrey received her PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, where she studied skilled reaching movements in neurotypical babies and adults, as well as adults with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Lori is now completing her Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta with Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum. Lori’s work focuses on visual attention during an eye gaze task and physiological indices of emotional regulation in infants at toddlers at risk for or diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Lori has been a member of TrAC since 2016 and is the 2018 Chair.
Jonathan LaiDr. Jonathan Lai (PhD) is Health Systems Impact Fellow at the Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and McGill University in Montreal. His current work seeks to understand the interface between research, health service delivery and policy in developmental brain-based conditions – bridging the gaps between neuroscience, mental health, primary care, and social innovation through systems thinking. Previously, Jonathan was a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Dr Jonathan Weiss at York University where he worked on identifying health and service needs for people with autism, the factors that influence service use, and predictors of changes in service use over time. During this time, he also worked with Autism Speaks Canada in a Kids Brain Health Network-funded practicum fellowship to link academic research and community practice.

Jonathan’s graduate training (MSc Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph; PhD Neuroscience, McMaster University) was in the biomedical aspects of autism and brain development. Funded consecutively by Ontario Mental Health Foundation and a Vanier Scholarship, his dissertation focused on understanding the link between the biology and behavioural phenotypes in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, which advanced understanding of the biology of autism subtypes.