Brain database

Ontario brain researchers are pooling their data in a cooperative initiative that could lead to quicker advancements in our understanding of many brain conditions.

I was excited to read about a new searchable database being set up by the Ontario Brain Institute. Scientists from across the province will input all of the patient data from their studies into this central database so the information will be available for other researchers to search and compare.

The database, dubbed Brain CODE, cost $1 million to start up and is being run out of a computing lab at Queen's University in Kingston Ontario. It will function similarly to an Internet search engine but will allow researchers to sort through a lot of very complicated information to find links, patterns and similarities between various brain conditions.

Sharing information is a cornerstone of scientific research and it is great to see technology being used to find innovative ways to do this more efficiently. The more quickly and completely we can cooperate, the more dramatic our advancements will likely be.

For now, this research database will be gathering data from labs in Ontario, but those at the Ontario Brain Institute say they hope it will expand and grow as it develops.

Data gathered for this database will be non-identifying so does not pose a privacy risk for individuals whose information is being shared among the scientific community.

Not only does a database such as this one have the potential to increase the speed of research, development of potential new treatments, and improve access to information about brain disorders, but the sheer volume of data could be useful in discovering connections between disorders we don't yet understand.

There are many brain disorders that seem to overlap or share similar pathologies and the more information we can gather and compare from more patients, the sooner we will be able to unlock these mysteries.

Some of the areas I'm particularly interested in hearing more about include possible connections between late onset depression and Alzheimer's disease and apparent similarities between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Of course many other brain disorders will also be covered within this database and a couple of the ones mentioned in an Ontario Brain Institute news release include epilepsy and autism.

I certainly hope the scientific community gets excited about this initiative and helps it reach its potential by actively participating and sharing data. The brain is one of the final frontiers in medicine and time will tell what new discoveries, treatments or insights are gained by this endeavour.


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