CanStim is the Canadian Platform for Research in Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation. Established in 2017 and funded by Brain Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery and REPAR, CanStim is an innovative translational platform for the development and optimization of protocols for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and other non-invasive brain stimulation techniques for investigation in the clinical trial setting. With integrated pre-clinical and clinical arms, this platform is unique in Canada and worldwide.
The CanStim network of investigators consists of experts in non-invasive brain stimulation from academic institutions across Canada spanning the continuum of discovery and clinical care. The CanStim Platform disrupts conventional discovery paradigms and will accelerate protocol development and enable the rapid uptake and translation of brain stimulation to the clinic for stroke rehabilitation
CanStim is a national platform that aims to harness the potential of non-invasive stimulation to safely treat the stroke-affected brain.
Co-led by stroke neurologist Dr. Alexander Thiel of McGill University and neuroscientists Dr. Jodi Edwards of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) and Dr. Numa Dancause of the Université de Montréal, the Canadian Platform for Research in Non-invasive Brain Stimulation, called CanStim, is accelerating discovery and moving new research into clinical practice.
CanStim features a unique translational approach towards stroke rehabilitation and recovery research by integrating pre-clinical and clinical research from the project inception. The platform provides the necessary research capacity in non-invasive brain stimulation methods, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), to develop and optimize novel approaches for people living with stroke disabilities and other neurological disorders.
Additionally, CanStim provides opportunities to trainees across Canada to explore new interdisciplinary approaches to studying stroke recovery.
While rTMS shows promise of becoming an effective option for enhancing rehabilitation in stroke survivors, clinical trial data are needed to establish the effectiveness before it can be adopted into routine clinical practice. To date, few stroke rehabilitation clinical trials have used rTMS due to either a lack of consensus about the optimal parameters to use in stroke survivors, varying protocols, or the absence of a national platform to facilitate use.
CanStim’s integrated design enables researchers to rapidly advance the development of optimized protocols for the use of TMS in stroke rehabilitation.
Used in combination with rehabilitation therapy, rTMS is a safe, non-invasive method to prime the brain by delivering short magnetic pulses on the outside of the skull. It has the potential to enhance recovery and reduce the amount of standard therapy required to achieve gains.
Particularly appealing about this new initiative is the opportunity to collaborate with industry. CanStim will bring developed devices to the patient faster by accelerating clinical trials and it will offer expertise in pre-clinical research to develop new tools with industry partners. The platform has a unique structure that will catalyze the development of novel approaches and the testing of promising technologies.
The CanStim team involves the leading recovery researchers from Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Kingston, Vancouver, Calgary and St. John’s.
This project has been made possible with the financial support of Health Canada, through the Canada Brain Research Fund, an innovative partnership between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada, the Heart & Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery and Le Réseau Provincial de Recherche en Adaptation-Réadaptation (REPAR).
Key milestones include:
- Publication of ‘Predicting Individual Treatment Response to rTMS for Motor Recovery After Stroke: A Review and the CanStim Perspective’: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fresc.2022.795335/full
- All clinical sites began recruiting and a new clinical site was added at Université de Montreal. Ottawa got a new MagStim TMS unit.
- The trainee association completed the first CanStim Trainee Exchange.
- After a successful virtual meeting in 2021, a first in-person CanStim Investigators Meeting took place in Montreal on September 22 and 23, 2022, with international and industry guest speakers and grant planning for the next phase of CanStim.