The focus of Women Friends of Baycrest this year will be on the amazing female scientists from Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. These remarkable women are working to solve the mysteries of the human brain with research on delay, prevention and treatments for dementia.

Central to the activities of the year, we are creating a new Woman Scientist of Distinction honour. We are thrilled to tell you that over the course of our series, we will be hearing from four Baycrest scientists. Each will have an opportunity to meet with The Women Friends of Baycrest members (virtually, on Zoom), and share information about their research and goals. After meeting all the scientists, members will vote to select the Woman Scientist of Distinction.
Dr. Donna Rose Addis
My research program combines neuroimaging, behavioural and neuropsychological methods to investigate how we remember past experiences, imagine future events, construct a coherent sense of self, and think creatively. A major focus of my research is to understand the relationship between memory and imagination. To this end, my studies explore whether memories and imagined events rely on the same cognitive processes and brain networks such as the default mode network. To date, our findings indicate considerable overlap in memory and imagination, suggesting that past and future events may in fact be different outputs of a single brain system designed to construct mental simulations of reality. Another focus of my work is to understand the ways in which future imagination differs with age, mood and mood disorders such as depression, and memory loss as a result of amnesia or dementia. This work is important in understanding how memory and imagination are linked to other aspects of psychological well-being, but also in identifying what persists in the face of memory loss, such as a strong sense of self, and ways in which future thinking could be enhanced. A new aspect of my research program is exploring how the uncertainty and changes in mood experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting various aspects of future thinking, from simulating upcoming experiences to making decisions related to public health.
Dr. Nicole Anderson
My research program answers two questions: how are memory and attention affected by healthy aging and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and what can we do to help maintain brain health and reduce dementia risk among older adults? To answer the first question, I am studying how feelings of familiarity and the ability to inhibit irrelevant information are affected by aging and MCI, and how early life trauma (e.g., the Holocaust) affects people’s memory for their childhood. These studies advance our understanding not only of normal cognitive aging and MCI, but also more fundamentally of how memory and attention work. To address the second aim, I am running interventions involving exercise, nutrition, cognitive training, and cognitive and social engagement with colleagues in the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA; Many of these interventions will move into the new Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness, where I am Associative Scientific Director. We aim to discover how these interventions affect cognitive functioning and brain health to reduce the risk of dementia.
Dr. Linda Mah
Clinician Scientist, Rotman Research Institute
My research program focuses on 1) advancing our understanding of the relationship between cognition and emotion in healthy aging and in disorders of the elderly, including late-life depression (LLD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and 2) applying this knowledge to improve diagnosis and treatment of disorders associated with late life. My aim to answer questions such as: How does depression or worry about memory changed increase the risk of developing AD and other dementias? Do interventions that target brain regions relevant to depression improve cognition in older adults? To address these questions, my research employs converging methods including behavioural paradigms, neuropsychological tools, psychophysiology, brain imaging, and neurostimulation in healthy older adults and in clinical populations. I am leading studies that examine the impact of emotion dysregulation on risk of developing AD and is the PI or site PI on clinical trials using non-invasive brain stimulation to reduce risk of AD in older adults with subjective cognitive decline, MCI, or LLD.
Dr. Rosanna Olsen
Scientist, Rotman Research Institute
I am interested in understanding how our brains support the ability to create new memories and remember our past. I also study how the brain changes with age, due to brain atrophy, and how this brain atrophy relates to declines in memory. My research uses high-resolution structural and functional neuroimaging, as well as eye movement monitoring, to investigate memory formation, retention, and retrieval. I have helped develop specialized, reliable and valid tools for regional brain measurements. Some of this work has examined the structural brain changes that occur in older adults who are exhibiting early (i.e. pre-dementia) signs of cognitive decline. We are currently conducting longitudinal studies, which study the same people over a period of five years, to better define the brain changes that occur with typical aging in contrast to brain changes in those who develop dementia. This work also aims to determine if the changes in these brain regions can also be detected using simpler, more cost-effective screening tools, which ultimately could be used in more widespread settings (e.g. rural and suburban areas), when neuroimaging is not available. Altogether, my research program will help inform, update, and refine current theories of aging and human memory function.