Jun 6, 2023

2023 CREMS Project Announcement

About the TDRA, Announcements, Partnerships, Research, TDRA Investigators

The Comprehensive Research Experience for Medical Students (CREMS) Program, offered by the University of Toronto MD Program, is a 10-12 week summer program that engages medical students in full-time research under the supervision of faculty mentors. CREMS students are co-funded by the CREMS program and research supervisors.

For a third year, the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance (TDRA) is co-funding a CREMS student conducting dementia research under a TDRA investigator. On behalf of research supervisor Dr. Amer Burhan, TDRA is pleased to be co-funding CREMS student Pooja Sankar. Details of their research project are found below:

Project Title: Cognitive and gait effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in patients with treatment resistant late-life depression and motoric-cognitive risk syndrome (CogniTReaD-TMS)

Field of Research: Neuropsychiatry, dementia, brain stimulation, mental health

Project Description: Motoric-cognitive risk syndrome (MCRS) is an illness that can precede dementia; a meta-analysis found a significant association between MCRS and both incident cognitive disability and dementia. A case of MCRS can be confirmed by measuring gait speed and dual-task cost (DTC), which is the slowing down of usual gait while performing a cognitive task. People living with treatment resistant depression (TRD) are also at risk for developing dementia, and studies have shown that many people living with TRD are positive for the MCRS profile. This interrelated triad perpetuates negative health outcomes. However, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has proven to be an effective and safe treatment for late-life TRD. This study will include participants living with both late-life TRD and MCRS. Participants will be treated with rTMS, and it is hypothesized that their MCRS will improve. A randomized trial and  systematic review will be conducted for this project.

Pooja Sankar

Pooja Sankar is a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto. Her interest in geriatrics and psychiatry stems from her time spent volunteering and working with older adults with dementia and other complex conditions. Pooja graduated from the University of Guelph’s Biomedical sciences program. She enjoys being involved in medical education related projects such as Toronto Notes and contributing to curriculum development. Pooja also enjoys learning about and supporting quality improvement projects to improve senior care in hospitals. With this CREMS project, Pooja is excited to draw on her previous experiences working with geriatric patients while expanding her knowledge of the vast field of neuropsychiatry.

Amer Burhan

Dr. Amer Burhan is based at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, where he is a Geriatric Psychiatrist, Physician-in-Chief, and Endowed Chair for Applied Mental Health Research. Dr. Burhan is an Associate Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and an Adjunct Research Professor in Psychiatry at Western University. Further, he is an associate scientist at the MacDonald Franklin Operational Stress Injury Research Centre and the Lawson Health Research Institute. Within TDRA, Dr. Burhan leads the Neurotechnology Research Working Group (RWG), and works with the Caregiving and Long-Term Care RWGs. His research focuses on complex mental health presentation in old age and therapeutic brain stimulation.

We thank all the TDRA investigators who submitted dementia research projects to the CREMS program during this application cycle. We encourage the TDRA community to continue to be active in CREMS as we continue to co-fund successful candidates.

For more details on the CREMS program, please visit: https://md.utoronto.ca/crems-summer-research-program