People, Research

Duerden’s brain research receives $100,000 grant from national organization

October 28, 2022

Professor Emma Duerden. (submitted photo)

Education professor Emma Duerden has been recognized as a rising star in Canadian brain research.

Brain Canada has awarded Duerden with a Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research Grant. The award is for $100,000 over two-years and it will support Duerden’s research concerning fetal and infant brain health. In particular, she will focus on babies who are at high risk for a pre-term birth.

“I’m thrilled and honoured to be recognized,” Duerden said. “This Future Leaders Award is unique because they base it on the research content’s quality and where they see Canadian brain research going in the future.”

It’s important to understand how pre-term births affect children’s brains because there are significant health and education costs associated with being born early. Often, these children are in intensive care and they’re also at a higher risk of having reading and writing difficulties, Duerden said.

When you take a closer look, one per cent of births worldwide are pre-term. In Canada, there are more than 37,000 pre-term births every year, with over 10,000 of them being in Ontario.

“We want to have a better understanding of altered brain development that leads to adverse academic outcomes to this population,” Duerden said.

In particular, many babies who will be born pre-term don’t grow as they should during the pregnancy. At the same time, there are few therapies and treatments for women who are impacted, Duerden said. She added the funding will support MRI scans for pregnant women, which will help identify those who are at high risk for early delivery. Also, the scans will help promote early behavioural interventions for children.

“There are many children who are impacted by a brain-based disorder, including pre-term birth, and these children are at high risk for very common developmental disorders like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” she said.

Dureden, a Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience & Learning Disorders, is leading an interdisciplinary team that includes students from Neuroscience and Engineering as well as students from the Faculty of Education. Students from Education will be responsible for conducting early assessments.

Founded in 1998, Brain Canada is a bilingual, national non-profit organization that plays a unique and invaluable role as a national convenor of the brain research community in Canada. They hope a greater understanding of how the brain works will contribute to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of disorders of the brain, thereby improving the health outcomes of Canadians. Brain Canada’s main areas of focus are fundraising, granting and strengthening the brain research community.