Course Title: Plenary F: Looking for Trees in the Forest: Finding Knowledge in Big Data (Paus)


Credit Hours: 1


Instructor(s) Tomas Paus


Tomas Paus, PhD Senior Scientist and Director of the Population Neuroscience & Developmental Neuroimaging Program at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
Plenary F: Looking for Trees in the Forest: Finding Knowledge in Big Data
Abstract & Learning Objectives: I will begin this lecture by acknowledging the power of observation, a cornerstone of our search for understanding brain-behaviour relationships. I will illustrate it with a few examples of work based on single-case and “small n” studies that have changed the way we study the human brain. I will then move to the “large n” domain and introduce the concept of population neuroscience: an intersection between genetics, epidemiology and neuroscience. I will discuss motivations for using this approach (e.g., complexity requires large n), design features (e.g., breadth vs. depth), and key challenges associated with participant recruitment (e.g., ascertainment), data collection (e.g., time constraints) and their interpretation (e.g., causality). Throughout the talk, I will use examples from our work on brain development to provide intuitive understanding of this field, its potential for generating new knowledge about the human brain, and for identifying forces shaping the brain from conception onwards. Upon conclusion of this course, learners will be able to:
  • Assess advantages and limitations of “big-data” approach in studying the human brain and behaviour
  • Use existing datasets to test hypotheses about brain-behaviour relationships and factors shaping the human brain and behaviour
Speaker Biography: Dr. Paus is Distinguished Senior Scientist and Director of the Population Neuroscience & Developmental Neuroimaging Program at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. During the first 20 years of his scientific pursuits, he worked on functional and structural organization of the human brain using a variety of approaches including studies of patients with brain lesions, functional and structural neuroimaging, and brain stimulation. In the last 15+ years, his work integrates epidemiology, neuroscience and genetics – through a new discipline of population neuroscience - in the pursuit of knowledge relevant for child and youth brain health. This research draws on data acquired in a number of cohorts based in North and South America and Europe. The work published by Dr. Paus and his colleagues has been well received by peers, being cited in over 45,000 publications. In 2013, Springer published his book “Population Neuroscience”. Dr. Paus received the Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award, Gold Medal of the Masaryk University, and is an elected member of the International Neuropsychology Symposium. He serves as Associate Editor of the Human Brain Mapping and Social Neuroscience, and is a member of several Scientific Advisory Boards in Europe and North America.