New state-of-the-art Research Imaging Centre promises to change the future of mental health

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) officially opened the doors to its new Research Imaging Centre — the first of its kind in Canada where positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and genetic imaging will be dedicated to the study of mental illness and addictions.

“This new capacity for innovation and discovery is tremendously exciting,” said Dr. Catherine Zahn, CAMH President and CEO. “We are on the cusp of a breakthrough in our understanding of the brain that offers real hope for the one in five Canadians who experience mental illness and addictions.”

The new Research Imaging Centre will allow CAMH scientists to see new paths of brain chemistry involved in mental illness and to find genetic links to brain structure, function and behaviour.  From depression and schizophrenia  to Alzheimer’s and addictions, the new facility will enable researchers to combine technologies in novel ways to better understand  how mental disorders develop and affect brain function, leading to more effective interventions and treatment.

Over the past two years, CAMH’s research facilities have undergone extensive development and construction to create this new state-of-the-art brain imaging capacity, adding 5,700 square feet to its research wing.

“The Research Imaging Centre is a major milestone of CAMH’s Research Renaissance Project, our largest ever scientific endeavour,” said Dr Zahn. “The Research Imaging Centre reflects our continued commitment to innovative research to advance our understanding, treatment and prevention of mental illness and addictions.”

The Research Renaissance Project was made possible through more than $20 million raised in private donations alongside more than $12 million in grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and $4 million from the Ministry of Research and Innovation.

“The Transforming Lives Campaign has been catalytic for CAMH’s research infrastructure, our program development and scientist recruitment,” said Dr. Bruce Pollock, CAMH’s Vice-president of Research. “With tremendous support from truly visionary donors, our scientists are making great strides to uncover more about the causes and effects of mental illness and addictions on the brain so that we can improve the lives of people we treat.”

In addition to a new MRI and cyclotron, the new radiochemistry lab within the Research Imaging Centre will help continue CAMH’s lasting legacy in research innovation by enabling physicians to study unexplored targets in the brain. Half of all the radiotracers commonly used in brain imaging research were developed and used for the first time at CAMH.

Some of the research planned includes an examination of changes in the brain during a mindfulness-based approach to preventing depression relapse and during a non-invasive brain stimulation technique.