The Azrieli Centre drives transformative research that is leading to better care for adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities across Canada.
The Azrieli Centre will drive projects within the following three streams:
Biomarkers and Translational Research
To develop treatments, we must first understand the causes of mental illness in this population, which requires reliable measures and a strong understanding of brain functioning in those with a neurodevelopmental disability and a mental illness. This population is commonly excluded from these types of studies.
As an example, Dr. Pushpal Desarkar’s research at CAMH is aimed at determining whether people with autism have greater neuroplasticity than people without the disorder. Working with colleagues in the Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention, he’s using that information to develop brain stimulation that improves brain functions in people with autism.
Senior Scientist Dr. John Vincent’s research is focused on providing a better understanding of the genetics and molecular pathways involved with autism and other neurodevelopmental and intellectual disability disorders, such as Rett syndrome. His work has identified a number of genes associated with autism, and he was involved in the discovery of a new variant of the Rett syndrome gene.
Health Systems Research
People with neurodevelopmental disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in both the physical and mental health care system. H-CARDD (Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities, directed by Dr. Lunsky), is an example of excellence in research collaboration, implementation science and practical knowledge transfer to clinicians within CAMH and beyond. This program involves more than 30 organizations at all levels of the health system, as well as patients and their families.
Working closely with partners in policy and practice, H-CARDD has studied health care patterns of the adult population with neurodevelopmental disabilities since 2010 in an effort to develop innovative approaches to addressing identified health care gaps.
Through more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and government reports, we have documented the extent of psychiatric disorders at the population level and influenced provincial policy and practice. By better understanding how this population accesses health care, we can make sure the system is meeting their complex needs.
Only a handful of Canadian studies have focused on mental health interventions for adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their caregivers. CAMH is well equipped to conduct this type of research, and the new fellows and investigators will work together to design and evaluate interventions to benefit this population.
Until now, people with neurodevelopmental disabilities and mental illness have been largely excluded from such trials; however, in recent years we have obtained research funds to design and evaluate new treatment models. This year, CAMH published the first clinical trial for parents of adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities, demonstrating the unique benefits of mindfulness for families.
Through these opportunities, the Azrieli Centre will contribute to the world’s understanding of how best to care for people with both a mental illness and a neurodevelopmental disability.
For those who cannot speak for themselves, our system is so broken.
Denise, mother of an adult with a neurodevelopmental disability and mental illness
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