Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

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$39.1 million for 2009-19
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Number of partners

Partner contributions
$6.5 million

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia

Scientific Director
Daniel Goldowitz Daniel Goldowitz

Board chair
Patrick Lafferty Patrick Lafferty,
former partner, PriceWaterhouse Cooper LLP and former Assistant Auditor General of Canada

Treating and preventing childhood brain disorders

The opportunity

With one in six children impacted by neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), there is an enormous need to improve diagnostic capabilities, develop new interventions, introduce new clinical practices, and better support affected children and their families. Canada was already known globally for its excellence in neuroscience and brain-related research. The next step was to create a national network that enabled researchers, neurological institutes and children’s hospitals from across the country to collaborate on new ways to treat, cure or prevent brain dysfunction in unborn children, and help children and their families overcome the challenges of neurodevelopmental disorders.

How NeuroDevNet is seizing this opportunity

NeuroDevNet researchers from multiple scientific disciplines collaborate with community, industry, government and not-for-profit partners to understand the genetic and environmental causes of cerebral palsy, autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The network supports high-impact and transformative research, and the translation of this research into tangible benefits, and provides innovative training opportunities to seed a new generation of highly skilled Canadian researchers. This collaborative effort is providing health care professionals, policy makers, caregivers and families with tools and information to promote earlier diagnosis, better treatment, and optimal outcomes for children today, and in the future.

Among the results

  • NeuroDevNet researchers have identified new autism risk genes. This discovery opens the door for earlier diagnosis, interventions and targeted treatments for children with autism.
  • FASD researchers have established a national dataset linking behaviours seen in the disorder to brain structure and genetic profiles. This unprecedented synthesis will enable a more complete understanding of the state of a child with FASD, support the discovery of diagnostic biomarkers and help assess therapeutic interventions.
  • Brain researchers from NeuroDevNet and computer scientists from the Graphics, Animation and New Media NCE (GRAND) co-developed a computer game that improves cognitive functions in children with FASD and autism spectrum disorder. They also improved cardio fitness in children with cerebral palsy with a pedal-powered video “exergame” built around a customized stationary bicycle.
  • NeuroDevNet has led the development of a national Cerebral Palsy Registry with information on over 1,400 children. This invaluable data promotes better understanding of treatment options and supports critical new research.
  • The network’s FASD researchers have shown that eye-tracking technology from SR Research Inc. is a promising screening tool for FASD and ADHD, based on an algorithm developed by Drs. Laurent Itti and Doug Munoz, who are pursuing a patent for their work.

Connect with NeuroDevNet


September 14, 2015
NCE community members among winners of prestigious Canadian science awards
February 18, 2015
The winners of prestigious science prizes given out to some of Canada’s top researchers include innovators who have made important contributions to NCE-funded networks and centres. The annual awards from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) are bestowed for a wide range of world-class achievements by Canadian researchers that boost discovery, training and innovation in Canada. His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, honoured the winners at a ceremony at Rideau Hall on February 17. Read more
Inflatable therapy vest may help children with neurodevelopmental disorders
September 27, 2012
Research conducted as part of a Mitacs Accelerate internship is helping show that the inflatable Snug Vest can help treat autism spectrum disorders. Deep pressure therapy, using devices such as weighted vests, is widely used to treat autism spectrum disorders, yet little scientific evidence exists to back up its effectiveness. Research conducted as part of a Mitacs Accelerate internship is providing that evidence, helping boost a young company’s product sales and development in the process. Read more
Gaming your way to better health
April 24, 2012
An innovative research project using video games and physical activity continues to demonstrate that children with brain disorders are more able to learn new behaviours than previously thought. Read more
Watch Video
Informing ASD Research with Stakeholder Input – Dr. Jonathan Weiss
June 9, 2015
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Caribbean Quest: Gaming to Improve Attention, Memory and Executive Function for Kids with ASD FASD
May 22, 2015
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What's it like to be a NeuroDevNet trainee?
August 5, 2014
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Innovative Science Curriculum by FASD researchers - PD Day for Science Teachers 2014
April 30, 2014
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FASD play: Jacob's Story
March 25, 2014
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Exergame for Children with Cerebral Palsy
February 20, 2014