Research Platforms

Biomarkers and therapeutic targets

Lead : Frédéric Calon (Ph.D.)
Co-Investigators / Contributors : Sébastien Hébert (Ph. D.), Nicole Leclerc (Ph. D.), Edith Hamel (Ph. D.), Stephen Cunnane (Ph. D.)

The ‘biomarkers and therapeutic targets’ team provides biological materials to researchers interested in discovering new molecular mechanisms and therapeutic targets and establishing a molecular prognosis for Alzheimer’s disease. These discoveries may also help to develop new drugs that can slow progression or even cure the disease.

Cognitive and neuropsychiatric markers

Lead: Sylvie Belleville (Ph.D.) and Carol Hudon (Ph.D.)
Co-Investigators / Contributors: Howard Chertkow (M.D.), Stéphane Poulin (M.D.)

Recent studies suggest that the development of Alzheimer’s disease begins 5 to 15 years before the onset of memory, language and judgment disorders. One of the research challenges of research is to diagnose the disease as soon as possible, because when cognitive disorders are too important advanced, treatments are less effective. The objective of the ‘Cognition’ group is to set up a battery of tests and questionnaires that will have the ability to predict, in a person with no or slight mild symptoms, whether they will develop Alzheimer’s disease a few years later. To achieve this goal, researchers in the Cognition group will use tools to evaluate cognitive functioning (eg, memory, language), perception of cognitive decline, and some psychiatric symptoms (eg, depression, anxiety).


Direction: Simon Duchesne (Eng., PhD)
Co-investigators / collaborators: Jean-Paul Soucy (M.D.), Julien Doyon (Ph.D.)

Neuroimaging is a well-established and recognized technique for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and for facilitating prognosis in individuals with mild cognitive impairment. In this project, CIMA-Q aims to establish the relevance of neuroimaging in detecting even earlier signs and / or risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with subjective cognitive complaints, which are often the first manifestations of dementia.

For these purposes, the Consortium has established a neuroimaging platform, involving seven sites dedicated to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and four sites with the ability to measure brain metabolism by positron emission tomography. The sites are:

  • Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec (MRI)
  • Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire en gériatrie de Montréal (MRI)
  • Montreal Neurological Institute (MRI, PET)
  • Douglas Mental Health Institute (MRI)
  • Centre hospitalier universitaire de Montréal (MRI, PET)
  • Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (MRI, PET)
  • Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec (MRI, PET)

This neuroimaging platform has two main objectives. The first will be to harmonize the acquisitions made by MRI and PET. This involves the creation and validation of harmonized protocols, the qualification of the different sites and a quality control protocol carried out continuously at each site, using a geometric phantom and a unique human phantom. These steps are necessary to standardize data from the different sites.

The second objective is to acquire brain images of subjects participating in the CIMA-Q study. We aim to acquire MRI data for 75 individuals with subjective cognitive complaints, 25 individuals with mild cognitive impairment, 25 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and 25 control individuals. In addition, we plan to acquire cerebral images of 35 individuals by PET using fluoro-deoxyglucose.

All data will be investigated to validate their quality and integrity. These data will then be centralized in the CIMA-Q database to make them available to Quebec researchers and other members of the Consortium. We anticipate that this high quality data will enable researchers to perform multi-modal analyzes, combining them with neuropsychological and biochemical markers to develop tools for early diagnosis of the disease, where interventions are more likely to succeed.

Protective and risk factors

Direction: Pierrette Gaudreau (Ph.D.)
Co-investigators / collaborators: Rebecca Fuhrer (Ph.D.), John Breitner (M.D.)

It has been proposed that Alzheimer’s disease develops when the summing up of risk factors surpasses the self-healing capacity of the brain. Although age is the best predictor of the disease, several other factors, preventive or aggravating, have been identified. Comorbidities, or the presence of diseases other than Alzheimer’s, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke or mini-stroke, chronic inflammatory conditions and episodes of clinical depression have been associated with accelerated cognitive decline and dementia. In contrast, there is growing evidence that particular lifestyle habits have a positive effect on brain function and may delay or prevent the onset of the disease. Among these, the level of education, physical activity, diet, social commitment and cognitive stimulation are all preventive factors of the disease.

Clinical and population cohorts

Direction: Pierrette Gaudreau (Ph.D.), Serge Gauthier (M.D.) and Marie-Jeanne Kergoat (M.D.)
Co-investigators / collaborators: Juan-Manuel Villanpando (Ph.D.), Louis Verret (M.D.) and Howard Chertkow (M.D.)

CIMA-Q cohort

The CIMA-Q project involves the longitudinal study (over several years) of about 350 people aged 65 or older at different stages of evolution of brain function problems (eg memory, orientation, language, attention, or other). Thus, cognitively healthy participants, people with subjective cognition complaints, people with mild cognitive impairment and people with Alzheimer’s dementia will be studied for several years to better characterize the evolution of memory problems and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Participants from the community, memory clinics across Quebec and the NuAge cohort will be recruited. The NuAge cohort is comprised of well-characterized subjects who did not have cognition issues at the time of their recruitment in 2004-2005 and have been followed for several years.
Data covering several aspects of health, such as neuroimaging, neuropsychology and biology, will be collected to identify relevant and early markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The participant’s contribution

Our cohort is the backbone of the CIMA-Q initiative and this is why the participants are essential to this study. Each participant will help advance our knowledge of memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. They will have an impact on the well being of future generations not only in Quebec but also around the world.

Brain Bank

Direction: Naguib Mechawar (Ph.D.)

Brain tissue studies are essential for understanding mental or neurological disorders. Access to such tissues allows researchers to further learn about the causes of different brain diseases or to develop effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, etc. The primary mission of the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank is to provide the scientific community with brain samples that are of optimal quality and preservation for research. This will help the acquisition of scientific knowledge to treat, cure and prevent diseases and brain disorders.

The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank was established in 1980, making it the oldest brain bank in Canada. It is the only fully functioning brain bank in the country with more than 3,000 well-characterized specimens. The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank is proud to be part of the CIMA-Q project and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease research in Quebec.