Canada Foundation for Innovation

Canada Foundation for Innovation

January 22, 2015 10:59 ET

Intelligent Drones, the Evolution of Depression and Why Montreal is the City That Sleeps

Canadian researchers explore new frontiers in science with the support of the Canada Foundation for Innovation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jan. 22, 2015) - Canadian universities received more than $35 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) this week to equip their researchers with state-of-the-art tools that will propel them into new frontiers in science and technology. Here is a small sample of the groundbreaking research enabled by the CFI.

Drones for good

Angela Schoellig, a new engineering professor at the University of Toronto, leaves for Dubai in early February to compete as a finalist in the international Drones for Good competition. Up for grabs: $1 million in prize money. Working with researchers at MIT's SENSEable City Lab, Schoellig is pitching the idea of building a swarm of drones that search for urban environmental hazards, such as toxic blooms of algae that poison drinking water. Her work on these smarter-than-your-average drones will be crucial for a swarm that may one day be up to a whole lot of good.

The evolution of depression

Could depression have evolved to help us problem solve? Paul Andrews, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University, has developed a controversial theoretical model that suggests depression may have developed to force people to focus their thoughts on solving a significant problem in their lives. Using new lab equipment, he hopes to support his theory with neurological measurements that demonstrate a depressed brain is also a highly focused brain. By doing so, Andrews could challenge the current thinking about depression, a mental illness estimated to affect one in four Canadians.

Montréal: the city that sleeps (and studies it)

Montréalers may bristle at the thought of their city being considered sleepy, but according to Dr. Thien Thanh Dang-Vu, Montréal is the premier destination to study the science of sleep considering the remarkable number of labs and facilities devoted to your slumber. Dr. Dang-Vu, a scientist with the Centre for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine at Concordia University, is leading an investigation into the brain activity of insomniacs. The evidence he collects will serve as a basis for cognitive therapies that may one day help those who suffer finally get a good night's sleep.

Don't text and walk

We all know that texting while walking can be dangerous, but why? What's going on in a person's brain while doing such impressive multitasking? HEC Montréal's Tech3Lab is studying how people interact with interfaces to improve consumer and employee experiences. Lead researcher, Pierre-Majorique Léger, has looked at everything from the pros and cons of employees using stand-up desks to how to improve Sobey's online grocery ordering system for its elderly customers.

This is your baby's brain on your diet

You are not only what you eat, according to Ian Weaver, a neuroscientist at Dalhousie University. The health of your baby can also be influenced by your diet and lifestyle in rather unexpected ways. Weaver studies how certain maternal stressors, including a lack of or even an abundance of modern food, can influence the genetic expression of infants. He suggests genetic predispositions to mental disorders, such as schizophrenia in adults or autism in children, could be partially related to a mother's diet. Tracking how a mother's pre and postnatal behaviour influences the gene expression of her children - with a particular emphasis on the child's future mental health - will contribute a new perspective on the critical importance of maternal care in an infant's early years.

These are just some of the stories CFI-funded researchers at universities across the country are prepared to discuss. For additional stories, visit the CFI's webpage or contact our media relations team listed below.

About the Canada Foundation for Innovation

The Canada Foundation for Innovation gives researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada's universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions, the CFI is helping to attract and retain the world's top talent, to train the next generation of researchers, to support private-sector innovation and to create high-quality jobs that strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @InnovationCA.

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