Science Rendezvous

CAN-BIND at Science Rendezvous- bringing brain science to the streets

This year, the Canadian Biomarker Integration Network in Depression (CAN-BIND) program participated in the 10th Science Rendezvous. This is Canada’s largest science festival, spanning 30 cities with thousands of fun and creative science activities brought to city streets.

Our exhibit was located at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus) where community members and families came out to learn about science through colourful posters, interactive demonstrations and live experiments. There were also opportunities to meet and talk to the researchers and scientists behind the goggles and the laboratory doors.

The CAN-BIND exhibit highlighted a range of exciting research topics!

Zebrafish research models. Photo credit: Dr. Brock Schuman.

Our MYTH BUSTERS activity boasted a fun “facts or fiction” game to test and increase the knowledge of visitors on topics of depression and research techniques. Dr. Brock Schuman is a postdoctoral fellow at the Zebrafish Centre for Advanced Drug Discovery at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, St. Michael’s Hospital. He was available to answer questions about zebrafish research models that are helping us to understand the role of genes and proteins in mood disorders. Find out more about zebrafish models here.

Did you know that technology can help further our understanding of depression? Our GOING MOBILE FOR MENTAL HEALTH display shared how data collected from your smartphone can be used to manage your mental health and wellness. CAN-BIND is currently conducting multiple studies that are using and testing mobile apps that can track and share data that could be beneficial in managing depression.

MRI image of the human brain. Depression can affect different areas of the brain such as the hippocampus (highlighted in blue). The hippocampus is involved in memory function and concentration.

Our BRAIN STRUCTURES AND MOOD display navigated through different parts of the brain that are affected in people with depression. Areas such as the amygdala (regulation of emotions) and hippocampus (important in memory function and concentration) were shown in brain images. These images were obtained using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by CAN-BIND investigators at the McMaster University/ St. Joseph’s Hamilton clinical research site (pictured, right).

Did you know researchers can measure the volume of your hippocampus from brain scans? These changes in volumes and/ or activity level could serve as biological markers or ‘biomarkers’ for early diagnosis and prevention of depression. They could also be used to predict response to various treatments of depression, and to predict relapse. Understanding these changes could contribute to improved health and wellness and intervention strategies in the future. CAN-BIND researchers are actively analyzing rich datasets to find such biomarkers.

MUSIC activates the reward pathway in our brain, like food, drugs and money,” says Dr. Thenille Braun Janzen, postdoctoral fellow and music therapy project co-lead with CAN-BIND. Dr Braun Janzen spoke about how music and rhythmic sensory stimulation can be used as therapies for depression. You can learn more about different music based approaches commonly used in research and therapy to promote health by reading our recent blog post here.

WELLNESS & COGNITION: Cognition is known as the act of thinking, perceiving and understanding. In depression, cognition is affected. “Changes in cognition in those with depression can be very subtle, so people don’t often consider it as a major problem,” says Dr. Shane McInerney, CAN-BIND study psychiatrist. “Mental sharpness is affected, as is concentration and the ability to process information quickly. These deficits in functioning can affect a person’s social functioning and wellness.”

Canada 150 themed CAN-BIND maple wellness tree at this years Science Rendezvous (May, 2017).

The exhibit brought together interactive information about cognition, wellness and the Cognitive Distortions Scale (CDS), a common scale used by clinicians and researchers to help identify thinking errors before, during and after treatment of depression.

To bring together the diversity of research and to raise mental health awareness, we encouraged volunteers, visitors and passersby to share wellness tips on maple leaves and add them to our Canadian wellness tree in recognition of Canada 150!

The CAN-BIND team enjoyed the opportunity to share research projects and brain health knowledge in a fun and interactive way with Science Rendezvous attendees. Thank you to everyone who visited! We look forward to seeing you at other CAN-BIND education and outreach events.

CAN-BIND researchers, students and staff gather to volunteer at the 10th annual Science Rendezvous event. Photo credit: Keith Ho.


To learn more about out CAN-BIND’s various outreach initiatives, click here.

Editors: Shane McInerney, MD, MB, MSc, MRCPsych, Janice Pong, MSc, Amanda Centini, MSc.