Impressive $3.3M investment in Basic Mental Health Research

MONTREAL, March 19, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In their effort to fund bold, transformative basic mental health research projects, Brain Canada, Krembil Foundation, and Women’s Brain Health Initiative (WBHI), with the support of The Erika Legacy Foundation and Power Corporation of Canada, are proud to announce the recipients of the Basics of Better Mental Health Program.

Basic research is scientific research carried out primarily to expand knowledge and understanding rather than to directly address clinical or practical issues. The Basics of Better Mental Health Program funds basic research that will provide insight into the causes and onset of mental health conditions, explore the neuropathological changes and information-processing deficits that may eventually lead to new directions for treatments and interventions, and explore the role of sex and gender in mental health.


By the time people in Canada reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have, or have experienced, a mental health condition. More basic brain research is necessary to understand how the brain functions in health, as well as in illness. In response to this need, Brain Canada and its donors and partners have invested a total of $3.3 million to support three recipients and their research teams.

“Brain research plays a critical role in increasing our understanding of the causes and onset of mental health conditions,” says the Honourable Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I am thrilled to support the work being done through the Basics of Better Mental Health Program – this work will support better mental health for all Canadians.”

“The inclusion of sex-specific biological considerations is instrumental in understanding the biological roots of mental health conditions,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “We take great pride in supporting these three recipients who are at the forefront of addressing sex gaps in brain research.”

The Basics of Better Mental Health recipients are investigating mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and postpartum depression, with a significant emphasis on sex-specific factors or differences.

“Little is understood about the brain and the conditions that inflict it,” says Mark Krembil, President & CEO of Krembil Foundation. “These gaps in understanding force clinical research to focus on symptoms as opposed to causes. Without basic research that considers sex-specific differences to uncover the mechanisms of diseases, we cannot hope to create effective treatments. We are proud to support this program and the pivotal research it funds.”

“By emphasizing sex-specific factors or differences, these studies hold immense promise in revolutionizing our understanding and treatment of mental health conditions, ultimately paving the way for more effective interventions tailored to the unique needs of women,” says Lynn Posluns, Founder & President of WBHI. “Through such initiatives, we are taking meaningful strides toward promoting women’s brain health and well-being.”

The bold projects supported by Brain Canada, Krembil Foundation, and WBHI include:

Insulin resistance in the mesolimbic system, a novel hypothesis for depression associated with metabolic resistance from obesity

Stephanie Borgland, University of Calgary awarded $1,100,000.

This project will investigate whether the ineffective insulin associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes may underlie the higher prevalence of depression and anxiety associated with these conditions, and whether restoring insulin can improve mental health. The studies will be conducted with coinvestigators Marie-Ève Paquet and Rochelin Dalangin at the Université de Laval, Stéphanie Fulton and the Université de Montréal, Carrie Ferrario at the University of Michigan, and Xiaochen Bai at the University of Texas SouthWestern Medical Center.

Developing open-science resources to map transgenerational, sex-specific effects of peripartum neuropsychiatric disease

Liisa Galea, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health awarded $1,100,000.

This project aims to understand changes in the brain in postpartum depression, and how the mother’s postpartum mental health can influence the offspring’s predisposition for mental health conditions throughout their lifetime. The studies will be conducted with coinvestigators Brain Kalish at SickKids and Shreejoy Tripathy at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

A prodepressive dopamine receptor complex in brain mediates sex differences in depression and anxiety : validation and strategies for drug discovery

Susan George, University of Toronto awarded $1,100,000.

This project aims to investigate whether dopamine receptor complexes may be involved in the higher rate of depression in women, using animal models, with an end goal of drug discovery. The studies will be conducted with coinvestigator Martin Beaulieu. Collaborators include Junchao Tong and Isabelle Boileau at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

“The generous funding from Brain Canada serves as the catalyst for fostering innovation, collaboration, and driving groundbreaking discoveries within our laboratories to understand molecular biomarkers of postpartum depression — one of the times of greatest risk for first-time depression,” says Dr. Liisa Galea. “I am honoured to receive this funding for an understudied area of research that affects not only the birthing parent but the health of the family unit. I applaud Brain Canada and their funding partners for prioritizing discoveries in women’s mental health.”

Learn more about Basics of Better Mental Health Program.

Listen to Brain Canada’s podcast on mental health, Playing with Marbles.

This Brain Health Awareness Month, celebrate your most critical organ by better understanding how the brain works in health and illness.

This program has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) Brain Canada Foundation, Krembil Foundation, and Women’s Brain Health Initiative, with support from The Erika Legacy Foundation and Power Corporation of Canada.

About Krembil Foundation

The Krembil Foundation is a Canadian family-led non-profit organization which supports medical research. The goal of the Foundation is to accelerate research, expand knowledge and ultimately impact lives through discoveries that will lead to scientific advancements in medicine. With this goal in mind, the Foundation focuses it’s funding on areas that have been historically underfunded: neurodegenerative diseases, and autoimmune diseases. The Foundation supports research with the intention of bridging gaps in knowledge, and ultimately helping discover treatments and cures for neurodegenerative diseases.

About Women’s Brain Health Initiative

Women’s Brain Health Initiative (WBHI), a Canadian Charitable Foundation established in 2012, is the largest resource for evidence-informed information specific to women’s brain health. It is a significant force in raising critical awareness of the unacceptable discrepancies in brain research on afflictions that present in women in frightening proportions. WBHI’s research, education, and awareness programs are essential to improving the brain health and mental wellness of women, caregivers, and their families, as well as catalyzing the urgency that must drive funds toward research to combat brain aging diseases that affect women. To learn more, please visit

Media contact:

Brielle Goulart
Communications & Marketing Officer
Brain Canada
[email protected]

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at


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