Oct. 28, 2021
What happens when 2 NHL hockey icons share a passion for neuroscience?
Canadian sports and business legends Larry Tanenbaum and Harley Hotchkiss shared more than a love of hockey. They shared a passion and commitment to advance brain and mental health research — Hotchkiss, through the establishment of UCalgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) and Tanenbaum through the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute (TOSI) at McGill University’s The Neuro.
Now, a new $2M partnership between the Larry and Judy Tanenbaum Family Foundation, TOSI and HBI will propel advancements in brain and mental health through Open Science — bringing the legendary friendship between the two hockey titans full circle.
“Harley and I became friends through our love of hockey and cemented our relationship through our contributions to health care in our respective provinces,” says Larry Tanenbaum, co-founder of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute and The Neuro, and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
Knowing that the Hotchkiss now joins The Neuro in a quest to spread adoption of open science principles across our country makes me hopeful and immensely proud. This is the very reason I created the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute at The Neuro.
– Larry Tanenbaum
Diseases of the brain and nervous system are among the most complex and unmet medical needs of our time. Open science encourages collaboration and shared information between researchers to find solutions more quickly — in this case, to help patients with neurological diseases and mental health disorders.
“It’s difficult for people working in isolation to make significant impact. We need to work together and collaborate if we're going to make rapid advances in brain and mental health and, ultimately, improve people’s lives,” says Dr. David Park, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.
HBI, based at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, is the first institution in Canada to partner with TOSI on this initiative, joining a future network of open science institutes across Canada and around the world.
“Having HBI join us enriches the open science world. More minds thinking and working together in open science means better results,” says Dr. Guy Rouleau, director of The Neuro and co-founder of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute. “We hope that our collaboration with HBI will encourage many others to come on board and join the open science movement in the near future.”
The Tanenbaum Open Science Institute was established in 2016 through a $20-million donation by the Larry and Judy Tanenbaum Family Foundation, with a goal of collecting and making research on neurological disease available worldwide. Partnership is key to the initiative’s success.
HBI is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge. With members spanning nine faculties, researchers are already participating in open science work for Parkinson’s disease and sharing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data sets to improve research.
Two HBI members — who are also assistant professors at the Schulich School of Engineering — are doing just that. Dr. Mariana Bento, PhD, and Dr. Roberto Souza, PhD, publicly share their data set of more than 450 anonymous MR images of healthy male and female brains of all ages. This is an important starting point for research, providing a baseline for comparison when examining brains for abnormalities.
Their own research leverages the images to develop new ways to make MR machines scan people more efficiently, using optimized data capture, labelling of brain abnormalities, and artificial intelligence. The data set has also been downloaded more than 1,000 times by researchers across Canada, United States, South America, Europe and more.
International researchers are currently using the data set for at least 50 other research investigations or applications, although the potential exists for countless more. A second release will include scans of patients with brain cancer, Alzheimer's disease, lupus, epilepsy and other diseases, enabling new research to better understand not just of how the brain ages, but also how those conditions affect the human brain.
“The history of scientific research shows that when we share evidence and information among scholars, the health solutions that we arrive at are better and more applicable. The ability for HBI scholars to share information with their colleagues around the world may enable us to hone in on answers more quickly. We'll be able to identify solutions that might not be apparent without the sharing of information,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor.
Harley Hotchkiss — who was a Calgary Flames co-owner — passed away in 2011 but his legacy lives on through the friendships and good works he cultivated during his lifetime. Tanenbaum says he’s excited to see what their shared vision for the future will bring.
“If we can all work together and share what we discover, then one day losing family and friends to neurological diseases and mental health disorders will be a thing of the past,” he says.
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Brain and Mental Health strategy
Led by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Brain and Mental Health is one of six strategic research themes guiding the university toward its Eyes High goals.
David Park is a professor in the departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Cell Biology and Anatomy at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) at the University of Calgary, and director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the CSM.
Mariana Bento and Roberto Souza are both assistant professors in the department of Electrical and Software Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, and full members of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the CSM.