Lab Canada

Joint neuroscience initiative brings together top researchers

Toronto, ON A major neuroscience research initiative, the Canadian Action and Perception Network (CAPnet), has been established by York University, the University of Western Ontario, and Queen’s University.


CAPnet held its first full two-day science and business meeting in Toronto, December 2-3, with approximately 30 neuroscience faculty members, several distinguished international advisors, guests from government agencies and private industry, and the Vice presidents of research (and innovation) from all three institutions. By joining forces, the researchers say they are aiming to understand how the brain works, especially in human movement control and perception, and how disease and injury can disrupt these functions.


CAPnet is a collaborative venture spearheaded by neuroscientists from three established research groups: the York Centre for Vision Research (CVR), the Western-based Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Group for Action and Perception (GAP), and the Queen’s-based CIHR Group for Sensorimotor Integration.  Individually, these three groups represent the top vision research centre, the top cognitive neuroscience group, and the top sensorimotor group in Canada.


Over the past five years alone, they have trained 664 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and published 805 refereed journal articles. They have already discovered how the brain analyzes vision in different neural streams for perception and action, how it maps our surroundings as we move through 3-D space, and how it starts and stops eye movements. By combining their formidable resources, with a focus on perception and action, CAPnet aims to be the leading perception and action group in the world, and one of the world’s top neuroscience groups.


CAPnet’s research goal is to understand how the brain uses sensory information to construct an internal perceptual representation of the world, and guide purposeful movements, both in health and sickness. Most of the central nervous system – including the cerebral cortex, subcortical brain structures, and the spinal cord – is involved in these processes, so this amounts to understanding how the brain works as a system to guide behaviour.


Individual CAPnet members have maintained active collaborations for many years, but this is the first time they have sought to formalize this relationship and mount a concerted effort at a national and international scale. Canada is well known in the international neuroscience research community for its unusually concentrated, even dominant strength in this particular area of systems neuroscience. The CAPnet steering committee – Doug Crawford (York), Jody Culham (Western), Randy Flanagan (Queen’s), Mel Goodale (Western), Laurence Harris (York), Ravi Menon (Robarts Research Institute at Western), Douglas Munoz (Queen’s), Stephen Scott (Queen’s), and Hugh Wilson (York) – are recognized international leaders and hold numerous national distinctions, including four Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs, one Ontario Research Development Challenge Fund, one Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, one Steacie Prize, two ‘top 20 young explorer’ awards from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and one ‘top 40 under 40’.  CAPnet researchers have access to major research infrastructures for modern brain imaging and recording, sophisticated behavioural assessment tools, and various patient populations.