valerie and loki

Guest Blog: Accelerating Neuroscience

This guest blog was written by our friends at the Branch Out Neurological Foundation who help fund research that accelerates tech solutions and non-pharmaceutical approaches to neurological disorders. Learn more about the real-world impacts they've had on patients since 2010!

Jacquie Li


by Eric Skalij, Marketing & Operations Manager

With Brain Awareness Week behind us and Brain Injury Awareness Month coming up in June, now is the perfect time to remind ourselves that brains are one of the hardest working organs in our bodies. The Branch Out Neurological Foundation is proud to play a pivotal role in accelerating neuroscience research, so that all brains can perform at their best.

It is estimated that over 3.6 million Canadians are living with a neurological condition, of which there are over 600 kinds—the most common include Alzheimer's, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and traumatic brain injuries. According to a study done by Health Canada in 2014, our aging population will see a significant increase in this number over the next 20 years. And neurological conditions do not only affect those living with the disorder; they also affect family members, caregivers, and extended networks, and will continue to strain the health care system.

This is why research into treating and preventing neurological conditions is imperative for the future well-being of all Canadians.

Branch Out was founded to help fill a missing but critical gap in research funding into neurological conditions. There is a growing interest in alternative, complementary non-pharma approaches for treating neurological conditions, yet there are many gaps in the scientific understanding of how these treatments work. As a result, research proposals into alternative approaches often go unfunded, despite an increased need for a diverse array of treatments, therapies, and technologies.

To help define the type of research Branch Out is looking to fund, the term neuroCAM was coined, which stands for the neuroscience of complementary and alternative modalities.

An example of neuroCAM research that Branch Out funds is currently being conducted by Valerie Caron, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine.

Valerie’s research looks at integrating a service dog into rehabilitation interventions that are focused on walking and balance for children living with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is part of a group of disorders that affects the ability to move and maintain balance and posture. In children, it makes it especially difficult for their brains to process walking and being aware of their environment at the same time.

The study introduced a trained service dog named Loki into the rehabilitation setting. A labernese mix, Loki acts as an external, dynamic walking aid for children, in contrast to more traditional aids like a cane or walker. By being a support that can move on his own, Loki removes the cognitive element of children having to learn to use a new tool, allowing them to focus solely on their balance.

In time and with enough study, Valerie hopes that the findings in this study can help future health care professionals determine when it would be most beneficial to introduce a service dog into rehabilitation settings as well as increase access for personal-use service dogs.

Branch Out is excited to be a part of bringing groundbreaking research like Valerie’s to have real-world impact with patients. Since 2010, approximately 120 research projects have received funding at 9 universities across Canada. We’re continuing to expand our support for research across the country, because each project helps to change the way we look at and treat the brain.

Want to be a part of the future of neurological research? Visit

Calgary Corporate Challenge is proud to support the Branch Out Neurological Foundation, one of 10 local charity partners in the 2022 September Games.