Symposium touches on ‘new frontiers’ of tech

Special to Western News

More than 100 neuroscience researchers from around the world are visiting Western to take part in the first international touchscreen symposium, New frontiers in cognitive testing using touchscreen technology, June 5-6 in the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building.

Two brains are better than one – but more than 100 are even better.

Starting Thursday, more than 100 neuroscience researchers from around the world are visiting Western to take part in the first international touchscreen symposium, New frontiers in cognitive testing using touchscreen technology.

For the two-day symposium on cognitive behavioural testing to evaluate neurochemical circuits, experts from renowned research institutes will share knowledge and research findings on topics including Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, Huntington disease and more. The symposium is organized by Western neuroscientists Flavio Beraldo and Amy Reichelt, and supported by Western’s BrainsCAN and the International Society for Neurochemistry.

Western is home to experts in cognitive testing, making it the ideal location for this first touchscreen symposium, said Marco Prado, a Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor and co-lead for the touchscreen symposium.

“Cognitive neuroscience is our strength and our goal is to share and increase knowledge within the touchscreen behavioural research community so we can better understand how alterations in brain chemistry affect high-level cognition,” he said. “The symposium encourages collaboration among researchers that will lead to new discoveries in this field.”

Prado, along with Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor Vania Prado, are leading experts in cellular and molecular communication research focused on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Prion diseases.

Researchers from Australia, South Korea, China, Brazil, the United States and Canada, among others, are taking part in the symposium. Despite the involvement from world-renowned neuroscientists, one of the aims of the symposium is to encourage young investigators to share their innovative research.

“Encouraging and providing a platform for young investigators to discuss their research strengthens our community,” said Tim Bussey, a Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor and co-lead for the touchscreen symposium. “It builds all of our capacities while generating new and innovative ideas for the future of cognitive neuroscience.”

Bussey, along with Co-scientific Director co-Scientific Director Lisa Saksida, are the inventors of a system available for touchscreen testing and have nearly 30 years’ experience using touchscreen technology to investigate cognitive function.

Training the next generation of researchers is also an important aspect of the symposium, explained said Julie Dumont, BrainsCAN Research Associate, Touchscreen Platforms and lead for the touchscreen training course.

Earlier this week, 15 researchers traveled to Western ahead of the symposium to take part in a touchscreen training course led by Western experts. The hands-on course gave trainees the chance to try the technology by learning how to set up an experiment, analyze data and combine the touchscreens with other neuroscience techniques.

“The training course was a great way to kick-off a week of research and discussion,” Dumont said. “Participants benefited from the opportunity to use technology that might not be available at their institutions while learning new skills to expand their knowledge.”