Trials – CanStim

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.

What is CanStim?

CanStim is a new 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 (CanStim) will receive $1.9 million over 3.5 years through CPSR and the Brain Canada Platform Support Grants program to accelerate discovery and move new research into clinical practice.

“By investing in platforms that will allow research resources to be shared, we are not only fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, but also enabling science to move at a much quicker pace,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, Brain Canada President and CEO.

The first platform of its kind in the world, 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 will provide 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 will provide 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,” explains Dr. Thiel. “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 will enable us to rapidly advance the development of optimized protocols for the use of TMS in stroke rehabilitation,” says Dr. Edwards, who is director of the Brain and Heart Nexus Research Program at UOHI.

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. “Our platform has a unique structure that will catalyze the development of novel approaches and the testing of promising technologies,” Dr. Dancause says.

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).

Meet our research leaders

Co-Scientific Directors:

Dr. Alexander Thiel
McGill University
Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research/Jewish General Hospital, Montreal

Dr. Jodi Edwards
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
University of Ottawa

Dr. Numa Dancause
Université de Montréal

(Photos of Thiel, Edwards and Dancause)​

From left, Drs Alex Thiel, Jodi Edwards and Numa Dancause​

Site leaders:

Dr. Stephen Scott, Centre for Neuroscience Studies Queen’s University;
Dr. Douglas Cook, Queen’s University;
Dr. Lara Boyd, University of British Columbia;
Dr. Sean Dukelow, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary;
Dr. Catherine Mercier, Département de Réadaptation, Laval University;
Dr. Marc Roig Pull, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University;
Dr. Joyce Fung, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University;
Dr. Michelle Ploughman, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Visit the CanStim website to learn more about research, trials, publications collaborations and training.