Operating Grant: Mechanisms in Brain Aging and Dementia

The goal of this Funding Opportunity (FO) is to advance the understanding about risk reduction and protective factors involved in promoting cognitive health and mitigating the changes that occur in the onset and progression of cognitive impairment and dementia in aging, while considering the intersection of different factors, including the social determinants of health and other structural and systemic barriers. The intent is also to build training and mentoring capacity for the next generation of researchers in the field.

As such, CIHR is launching this FO to enable expanded research on the impacts of resilience, resistance, cognitive reserve, neuroprotection and other mechanisms on the development and progression of age-related cognitive impairment and dementia, with a focus on knowledge mobilization (KM) practices throughout the research process to increase the usefulness and uptake of findings to relevant stakeholders, including partners and knowledge users.

The influence of factors such as resilience, resistance, neuroprotective mechanisms, cognitive reserve, genetics and environment on the risk for developing cognitive impairment and dementia is not well understood. The impact of these factors on the outcome of risk reduction interventions has not been addressed. Furthermore, the intersections of various aspects of diversity impacted by inequality and the social determinants of health – including socioeconomic factors, age, gender, sexual orientation, population group, Indigenous identity, disability, and language – may intersect with dementia risk and also inform risk reduction measures and their outcomes.

In addition, higher rates of dementia for Indigenous Peoples compared to non-Indigenous Peoples have been reported. Recognizing that First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples lived/living experiences vary, relatively little is known about the distinctions-based impacts that dementia has in Indigenous populations and/or how to provide culturally appropriate care of those impacted.

Research Areas

This FO will support will support projects relevant to its objectives in animal models of disease, human populations and/or studies that leverage existing datasets (from Canadian or international cohort studies, platforms, or databases such as the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging [CLSA]), including data from biospecimens and biomarker analysis in any of the following research areas that include, but are not limited to:

  • Mechanisms underlying resilience or cognitive reserve that maintain cognitive abilities and/or mitigate risk for cognitive impairment.
  • Mechanisms underlying resistance that maintain brain health in the presence of pathophysiology.
  • Differing pathophysiology underlying cognitive health, such as individuals with positive β-amyloid and/or tau biomarkers but normal cognition, or individuals that revert from mild cognitive impairment to normal or near-normal cognitive function.
  • Role of protective and modifiable risk factors in promoting brain health in aging, including those factors that contribute across the life course. These can include, but are not limited to, modifiable lifestyle factors, common risk factors with metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, rare diseases, other co-morbidities, sleep, inflammaging, as well as genetic factors and sex differences.
  • Modifiable risk factors that can delay the onset or slow disease progression.
  • Genetic risk factors underlying neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.
  • Interplay between and role of genetics, epigenetics and multi-omics in brain resilience and/or cognitive reserve in aging.

Please see funding opportunity's website for more detailed information.

Funds Available

The total amount available for this funding opportunity is $9M, enough to fund approximately twelve (12) grants. This amount may increase if additional funding partners participate. The maximum amount per grant is $250,000 per year over three (3) years, for a total of $750,000 per grant.

Of this $9M:

  • $5,250,000 is available to fund up to seven (7) projects in any relevant research area;
  • $2,250,000 is available to fund up to three (3) projects relevant to the Caregiving and/or Aging with Neurodiversity funding pools;
  • $750,000 is available to fund up to one (1) project relevant to the Infection and Inflammation funding pool; and
  • $750,000 is available to fund up to one (1) project relevant to the Indigenous Health Research funding pool.

Eligibility to Apply

  1. The Nominated Principal Applicant (NPA) must be one of the following:
    • an independent researcher affiliated with a Canadian postsecondary institution and/or its affiliated institutions (including hospitals, research institutes and other non-profit organizations with a mandate for health research and/or knowledge translation).
    • an individual affiliated with an Indigenous non-governmental organization in Canada with a research and/or knowledge translation mandate.
    • an Indigenous non-governmental organization in Canada with a research and/or knowledge translation mandate.
  2. The Research Team must include each of the following roles. Note that an individual can fulfill multiple roles.
    1. An Early Career Researcher (ECR) as NPA, Principal Applicant (PA) or Co-Applicant. The ECR must be eligible at the time of the full application deadline date.
    2. knowledge user (KU), which may include PWLE (people with lived/living experience), as a Co-Applicant, or collaborator.
  3. Any research involving Indigenous Peoples, including those applying to the Indigenous Health Research pool must include at least one applicant (NPA or PA) who self-identifies as Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit or Métis) and/or provides evidence of the capacity and experience to work with Indigenous Peoples and communities in a meaningful and culturally safe way (see How to Apply for more details).
  4. The NPA must have successfully completed one of the sex- and gender-based analysis training modules available online through the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health and have submitted a Certificate of Completion (see How to Apply).


Registration: June 13, 2023

Full Application: July 12, 2023


SFU Signature Sheet, CIHR Routing Slip and Full Application are due to Research Services three business days before the 'Full Application' deadline. Please note that the CIHR Routing Slip must be signed by Research Services and uploaded to the portal as part of the application package. 

Also note that SFU acknowledges the principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP®) see: https://fnigc.ca/ocap-training/) with regard to how First Nations data is collected, protected or shared.

Upcoming Deadlines