Meet: Stephen Strother, PhD

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Stephen Strother large.jpgMeet: Stephen Strother, PhD, Neuroinformatics / Brain-CODE Lead

What excites you about ONDRI?

I believe that the future of understanding, helping to diagnose and monitoring treatment for brain disease requires us to collect a much larger data sample than we have in previous studies. This is exactly what ONDRI is doing and it will provide us with a baseline and set the standards and performance expectations for future trials of disease treatments.

Why did you choose your profession?

I’ve always had a strong interest in understanding how the brain works since my PhD at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University. I enjoy highly interdisciplinary projects and environments because it’s exciting to work with a variety of people with different skills at all stages of their careers – you learn a lot. This is how you can do exciting science and where brilliant ideas are created.

What’s your role with ONDRI?

I’m the Neuroinformatics and Brain-CODE Lead based out of Baycrest Hospital. I’m the primary conduit to Brain-CODE and I ensure that we standardize high quality neuroimaging data collection. With OBI, I’m building the neuroimaging part of Brain-CODE for ONDRI and the other OBI Integrated Discovery Programs.

My goal is to maximize the use of neuroinformatics datasets and design modern statistical approaches to detect diseases. I’m working with biostatistics to ensure that once the data is in brain-CODE, we’ll have the techniques to easily detect biomarkers and statistical trends. For example, we’ll be able to see how quickly an ALS patient declines in a standard sample. I like to think of myself as part of the glue in the background that keeps high quality studies running.

What other research are you involved in?

Outside of ONDRI, one of the topics I’m investigating is the difference between patients who do nothing cognitively or physically (resting state) in a scanner and those who complete cognitive tasks (active state). I want to know which state produces the optimal neuroimaging data for studying aging and related brain diseases. In ONDRI, our participants are in resting state in the scanners but they do complete tasks during the neuropsychology assessment.

Tell me about the paradigm shifts happening in your area of study.

Investigators are starting to collaborate on studies instead of working in silos on their own projects. Instead of being judged by the amount of papers they produce individually, ONDRI is encouraging investigators to work together to publish papers for the collective benefit of everyone in the world. My reputation is now dependent on a large group of investigators instead of just my actions. It’s a different way of working and a change but overall it’s the way all industries are moving because it’s effective. Just think of the ideas that will be discovered when there are 100 people trying to answer one question instead of just one person.

Tell us about your research and expertise.

I studied physics and mathematics at Auckland University, New Zealand, and received a PhD in electrical engineering from McGill University where I developed early Positron Emission Tomography (PET) techniques. I completed a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York and joined the VA Medical Center, Minneapolis as senior PET Physicist, and Assistant Professor of Radiology at the University of Minnesota where I became Professor of Radiology.

In 2004, I moved to Toronto to be a Senior Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest where I’m now the Associate Site Leader in the multi-institutional Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR) and Professor of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. I’m also a cofounder of Predictek, Inc. and ADMdx in Chicago, medical analysis and diagnostics companies. I started building neuroimaging databases for stroke studies in 2007.

Do you have any hobbies?

I used to be an avid runner, but now I spend that running time collecting wine and focusing my attention on escaping Canadian winters by travelling to New Zealand (where I was born) for several weeks each year.