Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus. (File photo).

SFU Surrey gets eBrain centre and Homeware lab

Centre to help diagnose and treat neuropsychiatric disorders, the lab deals with Internet of Things

An “eBrain” centre and “Homeware” laboratory are being set up at Simon Fraser University’s campus in Surrey with a mind toward helping youth with mental health and addiction issues as well as advancing digital technology.

So what is a Homeware lab and an eBrain centre?

Let’s start with the latter.

The eBrain centre will be a research facility that aims to develop new technology-based diagnostic and treatment methods that will “safely, reliably and inexpensively assess brain health,” Marianne Meadahl, a spokeswoman for SFU, explained in a news release. “It will also lead to innovation strategies that extract and control markers of brain health and translate them into clinical trials.”

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Professor Faranak Farzan, SFU’s chairwoman of technology innovations for youth addiction recovery and mental health, will be in charge of it. She is considered a leading expert in developing neuromodulation technology — involving the alteration of nerve activity by stimulating specific spots in the human body — for diagnosing and treating neuropsychiatric disorders.

Dr. Faranak Farzan. (Photo: SFU).

“A unique function of the eBrain Centre is that it will integrate research and discovery between major stakeholders, including university, hospital, health policy makers, industry, and community,” Dr. Farzan said. “This will serve to centralize and oversee the process of discovery, innovation, and translation of biomedical research outcomes to benefit youth who are impacted by mental health and addiction issues.”

Meantime, Dr. William Odom, an assistant professor at SFU Surrey’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), will be in charge of the new Homeware Lab, a first of its kind in Canada, where researchers will “efficiently translate people’s experiences with everyday analog objects to design of new IoT artifacts,” Meadahl said. “The lab will develop and refine integrative design processes for creating, producing, testing IoT artifacts and embedded systems, and studying them in real-world contexts.”

What’s IoT, or Internet of Things?

“The Internet of Things refers to connecting all kinds of devices, like cellphones, headphones, lamps, appliances and many other things,” Meadahl told the Now-Leader.

Odom is also co-director of the Everyday Design Studio and on the steering committee of the Interaction Design Research Centre.

Dr. William Odom. (Photo: SFU).

“The lab will be unique in Canada and rare in the world,” he said. “This research requires a laboratory to support the rapid iterations between and across the design and production stages of prototyping, fabrication, assembly, finishing, and deploying research products.”

Odom said there’s “increasing demand” for new approaches to IoT systems that match “real-world needs and living situations of Canadians in ways that are user-driven, beneficial, and offer sustained value over time.

“Knowledge and technology will be transferred effectively through collaboration with end-users in local, national and international industry,” Odom noted, “the community of human-computer interaction and design researchers and practitioners, and educational communities. Ultimately, the availability of IoT technology integrated into people’s everyday domestic lives will provide significant health and security benefits for Canadians.”

The Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund will support the two projects, providing $250,000 for the eBrain centre, $50,000 for the Homeware lab and $150,000 to support research into exposure to early life stressors conducted by Dr. Nadine Provencal, of SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Meadahl noted that Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of science and minister of sports and persons with disabilities, has announced more than $24 million in funding from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund to support 186 new research projects at 37 Canadian universities.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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