Backgrounder: University of Victoria health research

Social Sciences

The Cognitive Health Initiative made possible by this philanthropic donation will foster a vital and ongoing strategic collaboration that is perfectly aligned with the University of Victoria’s efforts to work with community partners and donors to help solve today’s health challenges on Vancouver Island, across the country and around the world.

Health research that supports healthy aging is a priority and strength at the university, where roughly a quarter of the faculty engage in health research. The university’s Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health (IALH), led by Scott Hofer, is a multi- and inter-disciplinary research centre dedicated to improving both lifelong health and quality of life for a diverse and aging population.

“Cognitive health researchers at IALH study the health of the brain and its overall function,” notes Hofer. “This includes looking at brain functions like memory, judgment, language, intuition and the ability to learn. Our goal in studying cognitive health is to better understand and ultimately improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients living with cognition-related disorders.”

But research alone is not enough. UVic is committed to the timely translation of research back into clinical practice. The collaborative work that today’s gift envisages aligns with our long-term goals to have people living with cognitive impairment on Vancouver Island participating in cutting-edge research studies and interventions that aim to attenuate their disease and improve quality of life.

Learn more about our work in cognitive health through the following researchers, whose work exemplifies the university’s multi-disciplinary approach to health research:

  • Scott Hofer. Director of Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health. Integrative Analysis of Longitudinal Studies on Aging and Dementia Research Network. (NB: Unavailable for interviews until Oct. 9.)
  • Stuart MacDonald. Psychology. Victoria Longitudinal Study. Researches cognitive impairment associated with age.
  • Jodie Gawryluk. Psychology. Uses magnetic resonance imaging techniques to look for biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Christoph Borchers. Biochemistry. Research into modelling of proteins that change structure and cause cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Andre Smith. Sociology. Research project to reduce the use of anti-psychotic medication among people with dementia in residential care through staff training and education, and shifts in organizational culture.
  • Debra Sheets and Lynne Young. School of Nursing. Site Leads, Canadian Longitudinal Study. Impact of intergenerational community choir of people with Alzheimer’s and caregivers as inexpensive intervention for reducing costs, improving quality of life.
  • Stephanie Willerth. Engineering. Biomedical engineer whose work engineering neural tissue holds promise for personalized and regenerative medicine.
  • Brian Christie. Division of Medical Sciences. Explores whether video games that require effortful processing (Neurotracker) increase cognitive performance in people as they age, recover from traumatic brain injury, or live with subclinical levels of dementia.
  • Denise Cloutier. Health geography. How older adults transition through the long-term care system; identification of patterns and predictors in the process that affect quality of life and are important for health policy.

Media contacts

Jody Paterson (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-8746 or

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Keywords: dementia, health, aging, Island Health, Victoria Hospitals Foundation, Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health, Cognitive Health Initiative, palliative care, research

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