World-class developmental neuroscience program

Holland Bloorview sees over 7,500 kids and youth with various disabilities annually. The majority of them have a disorder that affects the brain. Understanding the brain characteristics of these disorders is imperative to developing novel and innovative interventions, supporting precision medicine, and personalized pathways. With the addition of an on-site research MRI facility, Holland Bloorview will facilitate new discoveries that will translate directly to improved knowledge and treatment for children, youth and families and help them achieve their goals faster than ever before.

“The proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” captures the spirit of the current endeavour. Holland Bloorview’s new research MRI will open a window into a new world – a world of our brains with secrets of our thoughts, emotions, and actions that we haven’t been able to capture before. The new research MRI is critical for us to determine how the brain develops under pressure so that we can find ways to minimize hurdles and discover alternative routes. It will allow us to scan hundreds and even thousands of children and adolescents with and without disability in groundbreaking research studies. This is truly a community effort that will enable us to see how brain development cascades through its stages – from infancy to childhood, adolescence and young adulthood – and realize the most meaningful and healthy futures for all children and families.” (Dr. Tomáš Paus, distinguished senior scientist, Holland Bloorview).

A world-class, fully accessible, child-friendly MRI facility onsite will be used exclusively for research purposes. The design and concept of the facility is a research imaging space that puts children and families at ease with a customizable immersive environment and embodies a décor philosophy that applies to the entire suite, including assessment rooms and client and family waiting areas. It will feature child-selectable lighting, images, and projections to create a truly unique experience for each individual undergoing a MRI scan. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all children, youth and families feel supported, comfortable and confident to return to the MRI facility for research purposes.

“I’m excited about the new research MRI suite, to be a part of the planning committee, and to see where the technology will take us. As a former client, my experience would have been quite different if we had this equipment when I was younger. Clients and families of Holland Bloorview and in the community can expect interactive elements that will keep them occupied and entertained while waiting for their appointment, a more inclusive environment that caters to unique client needs, and a more personalized and calming atmosphere that will help reduce anxiety. The personalized and inclusive options are endless. I’m so privileged to be a part of a truly radical shift in the way childhood disability research will be conducted.” (Melissa Thorne, youth facilitator of the Spina Bifida and Spinal Cord Injury Clinic, LIFEspan Clinic, and Youth Engagement Strategy).

Construction for the new research MRI begins in May 2019. Live operation is expected by the end of 2019.