Brain exploration offers powerful possibilities

Professor R. Paul Young

When we think of explorers, it is usually someone like Ferdinand Magellan finding his way around the world by way of the oceans, or aboriginal peoples travelling across the former land bridge in the far north into what we now know as North America, or even astronauts flying far into the skies above us.We understand exploration well from these perspectives.

The brain, however, doesn’t have the vastness of the continents, or the oceans, or outer space. Still, the brain is very much like undiscovered territory, holding mysteries that have fascinated researchers in myriad fields for years.

You will meet some of the University of Toronto’s leading brain explorers in this special issue.

Given the size of our research community — with 5,000 full-time scholars and researchers and the incredible breadth they study — it is always a challenge to represent them all in an issue of Edge.

But this issue on the brain presented a particular challenge. If the brain is what makes us human, then it can be said that every professor at U of T has something intelligent to say about the how the brain works, what it is capable of, and how it can be repaired. Indeed, this issue of Edge could literally be hundreds of pages in length.

In the 12 pages that make up this issue, you will still meet an impressive array of brain explorers — educators, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, religion scholars, anthropologists, computer scientists and philosophers who are examining everything from how children learn to why the human brain developed religion to fascinating work on repairing damaged brains through a procedure called “deep brain stimulation.”

And we cap it off on page 12 with an interview with Professor Donald Stuss, founding director of the renowned Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, a
scientist who conducted breakthrough work on the role of the frontal lobe and who is now the CEO of
the Ontario Brain Institute.

True explorers all, searching for new knowledge about one of our most complex challenges.

I hope you enjoy this issue.


Professor R. Paul Young, PhD, FRSC
Vice President, Research and Innovation