Improving treatments for cognitive abnormalities in some disorders
Millions of Canadians suffer from neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders that can have a tremendous impact on their cognition—affecting such aspects as memory, attention and motivation—and greatly affect their quality of life. It also strikes at the very essence of who they are. Unfortunately, few new treatments for these disorders have been developed over the past two decades.
Traditional approaches that focus on developing treatments as a whole—such as trying to remediate all of the different symptoms of schizophrenia with one drug—are now being replaced by an emphasis on disruptions in cognition that occur across multiple disease categories, and how these disruptions are related to circuit and molecular/cellular aspects of the brain that are vulnerable to disease.
This new approach has been facilitated by new molecular tools that allow us to produce rodent models with unprecedented precision. However, measuring high-level cognition in rodent models is still a major challenge, meaning that an essential component of this strategy has been missing.
Dr. Lisa Saksida is the Canada Research Chair in Translational Cognitive Neuroscience. The goal of her research is to provide this essential missing component. She has invented a touchscreen-based technology that allows researchers to test rodent models with the same tests used to assess patients. By combining this technology with precise rodent models of disease, she will answer critical questions about the molecular and circuit basis of high-level cognition, and provide new tools to improve translation from studies in rodent models to the clinic.