VoxNeuro Announces Research Project With St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton
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HAMILTON, Ontario — At the close of 2019, VoxNeuro joined a pilot study conducted by the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic & Mood Disorders Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The study is led by Dr. Benicio Frey and Dr. Flavio Kapczinski, and has been designed to identify biomarkers of bipolar disorder.
Dr. Frey, the study’s Principal Investigator, is the Academic Head of the Mood Disorders Program, and is the Medical Director of the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare. He also holds the position of Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. Specializing in psychiatry, biochemistry and brain imaging in bipolar disorder, Dr. Frey has more than 150 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Kapczinski, Psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, professor and Director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at McMaster University, is a leading author in the area of mood disorders and has published over 430 peer-reviewed articles (over 22,000 citations). Dr. Kapczinski and colleagues helped to develop the concepts of neuroprogression and staging in bipolar disorder, published in 2009. This current study intends to add objective details to Dr. Kapczinski’s staging model by assessing whether the brain’s connectivity alterations are associated with illness progression in bipolar disorder.
Dr. Kapczinski was an early supporter of VoxNeuro’s work, founded on the lifetime research of Dr. John F. Connolly, a colleague of Dr. Kapczinski at McMaster University and VoxNeuro’s Chief Science Officer. In an interview in the fall of 2017, Dr. Kapczinski spoke to the potential of VoxNeuro’s Cognitive Health Assessments™ and the impact they will have on both brain injuries and mood disorders, “If someone is having depressive symptoms but then we think the origin is actually repeated brain injuries, having a tool that can confirm that can put us on the right track…Having an objective measurement related to the brain function of people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries is enormous, clinically.”
For this project, the teams are collaborating on the assessment’s application to mood disorders, specifically bipolar. The current classifications of psychiatric diagnoses are based purely on behavioural observation and self-report, and lack of substantial biological validation. This contrasts sharply with the rest of medicine where diagnosis and treatment are routinely aided by biological tests that are based on validated biomarkers. Biological markers, or biomarkers, are quantitative measurements that provide information about biological processes, a disease state, or about response to treatment (FDA’s Biomarkers Research Group definition). The objective of the study is to create a biological bank of potential biomarkers to investigate etiology, prognosis, and/or treatment response in individuals with bipolar disorder.
VoxNeuro’s Cognitive Health Assessments™ are being used alongside blood tests and various behavioural and clinical assessments to identify the most effective tools to accurately predict onset, diagnose, inform prognoses and track treatment responses for bipolar disorder. Specifically, in addition to the objective reports provided by VoxNeuro’s Cognitive Health Assessments™, the EEG data is being used to investigate functional connectivity patterns as a potential biomarker for bipolar disorder. A recent review showed that abnormal fronto-cortical connectivity may be involved in bipolar disorder across mood states. These connectivity disturbances possibly contribute to emotional dysregulation, and cognitive impairments in bipolar disorder.
If the pilot study results support the hypothesis, a follow-on multi-year longitudinal study will be pursued to widen the data, track participants throughout diagnoses & treatment, and assess the accuracy of prognoses. This is one of VoxNeuro’s first examples of being integrated into a clinical study to provide objective measures to guide the examination of researchers’ hypotheses.
“We’re looking forward to working closely with St. Joseph’s Healthcare and St. Joe’s Research Institute on this project. It’s a perfect example of the strong opportunities that exist between VoxNeuro, other innovative healthcare startups being built in this region, and the industry leading healthcare teams right here in our own backyard. Spinning our technology out of McMaster University, we’re extremely fortunate to be headquartered in Hamilton – Canada’s leading health sciences research cluster,” says Kimberly Elliott, COO of VoxNeuro.