Grants awarded for COVID-19 research in child, brain health

Two Western researchers are among six interdisciplinary project teams awarded Manulife CIFAR Population Health and Wellbeing grants to study the long-term health effects of COVID-19.

Professor Daniel Ansari, a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, will be part of a team examining the hidden costs of COVID-19 on children; and Adrian Owen of the Brain & Mind Institute is leading a study into the infection’s lasting effects on the brain.

Ansari’s work examines how the pandemic will affect children’s brains, immune systems and ability to thrive.

That includes not only direct effects of the virus, but also stressors such as the economic downturn and social distancing policies – factors that may have an impact on children in crucial developmental stages.

The cross-disciplinary team of 11 fellows from CIFAR’s Child & Brain Development and Humans & the Microbiome programs will create ‘at home’ kits that will enable citizen scientists to contribute biological, behavioural and sociological data to the study.

Owen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging and Koerner CIFAR Fellow, has launched an international study with 50,000 participants in order to understand the effects of COVID-19 on brain function.

There is early evidence that those who develop severe infections may experience cognition issues stemming from the virus itself, from brain inflammation and from environmental effects caused by time spent in an intensive care unit.

The work by Owen’s team will help guide recovery and care for patients and add important insight in minimizing long-term cognitive impairment from neurovascular, neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases.

Each grant totals $50,000.

CIFAR is a Canadian-based global research organization that supports researchers addressing important questions facing science and humanity. It is supported by the governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Canadian and international partners, as well as individuals, foundations and corporations. CIFAR has had a decades-long partnership with Manulife on research involving population health and well-being.


Brain Study explores lasting impact of COVID-19, June 2020

Four new Canada Research Chairs for Western, two renewed, July 2020