Brain Canada Foundation (Brain Canada), Brain Changes Initiative (BCI), and Branch Out Neurological Foundation, are thrilled to announce Dr. Jonathan Smirl from the University of Calgary as the recipient of the Brain Changes Initiative Award for Traumatic Brain Injury Special Purpose Grant.


The Brain Changes Initiative Award for Traumatic Brain Injury encourages innovative, unorthodox, and exploratory research that may be in the early and conceptual stages of project development but has potential for significant impact on our understanding of brain recovery after moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury.

It is estimated that approximately 165,000 people per year are affected by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Canada and that by 2031, TBI is projected to be among the most common neurological conditions affecting Canadians. Because of the high numbers of people experiencing TBI, contrasted with the lack of resources to match the demand for services, people with brain injury are at a high risk of missing a critical window of opportunity for recovery.


This year, BCI raised $25,000, which was matched by Brain Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), to award $50,000 in funding. The purpose of this award is to improve our understanding of the potential for non-pharmacological interventions to improve brain recovery after injury.


Dr. Smirl’s project titled “Supine cycling with lower body negative pressure: a novel treatment for concussion” explores the physiological changes related to exercise following concussion. Dr. Smirl will examine brain blood flow and concussion symptoms before, during, and after exercise with participants experiencing concussion symptoms lasting longer than 28 days.


“My objective is to investigate the impact of a non-pharmacological treatment involving lower body negative pressure with head-up tilt during exercise on reducing the severity of symptoms experienced during exercise following a concussion, says Dr. Smirl. “My findings will allow individuals with persisting post-concussion symptoms to gain the health benefits of exercise without worsening their symptoms, thus promoting their full recovery.”


Dr. Smirl, his lab team, and the novel equipment in his lab at the University of Calgary are optimally suited to develop and implement this innovative treatment intervention to reduce the burden of concussion symptoms during exercise. By reducing symptoms during exercise, we will provide individuals with the benefits of exercise without the discomfort of symptom exacerbation.


“Brain Canada recognizes the urgent need for exploratory and innovative concussion research,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “We are committed to bridging the gaps in the initial phases of the clinical research pathway, and proud to be collaborating with partners experienced in transforming innovative ideas into tangible solutions.”


“It’s not just about the research itself, it’s about translating that research to clinicians, patients, and survivors so that they’re receiving the best treatment possible to improve their recovery,” says Dr. Matthew Galati, Founder of BCI and traumatic brain injury survivor. “We’re very excited to see where Dr. Smirl’s work leads.” 

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 (Brain Canada), Brain Changes Initiative (BCI), and Branch Out Neurological Foundation.