CIHR graduate scholarship funds research on intimate partner violence brain injury

Approximately one in three people over the age of 15 who identify as female and who has had an intimate partner has experienced some form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. Yet despite this staggering statistic – published by the World Health Organization in 2021 – IPV brain injuries are largely understudied and little acknowledged.

imageMaster’s student Justin Brand (Christie Lab; co-supervised by Dr. Sandy Shultz) plans to help change that. He received a Canadian Graduate Scholarship – Master’s (CGS-M) from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study the relationships between traumatic brain injury (TBI), IPV, and stress.

Justin’s project will stem from his recently published literature review on stress and TBI, but it will focus on brain injury in the context of IPV. The review found that stress and TBI can cause similar types of damage in the brain, and that the timing of stress can influence TBI outcomes and recovery.

In his upcoming research, Justin will assess if a combination of psychological stress and IPV brain injury causes motor and cognitive deficits and increased anxiety/depressive-like behaviours. He will also try to identify related blood biomarkers and characterize brain injury pathophysiology.  

Justin says the pathophysiological findings could help provide a foundation for future treatment studies on improving recovery from IPV brain injury. The blood biomarker findings could help establish a reliable and objective diagnostic tool. “Such a tool not only has the potential to enhance clinical assessment and treatment of TBI, but it also holds promise for use as compelling evidence in court cases involving IPV,” he says. “This holds immense importance. By emphasizing the objective nature of the diagnostic tool, its utilization in legal proceedings can help establish a clearer understanding of the injury's impact and support justice for survivors of IPV.”

To learn more about IPV and to access resources, please visit and