Adrian Owen

Adrian Owen

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging

Western University

“ Adrian Owen represents a strategic investment in not only one of the absolute top scientists in his field, but in Canada’s firm commitment to maintaining a leadership role in research, education and health. ”

― Amit Chakma, president and vice‑chancellor, Western University


Adrian Owen has spent the last 20 years pioneering breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience. His work has been published in prestigious journals such as The Lancet, Nature, Science and The New England Journal of Medicine.

Before assuming his Canada Excellence Research Chair at Western University, Owen was a senior scientist and assistant director of the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, United Kingdom. His work there, and at the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre at the University of Cambridge, used functional neuroimaging to explore attention, memory and control in brain‑injured and healthy volunteers.

Owen received his PhD in neuroscience from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, England, and his B.Sc. in psychology from University College London, University of London.

Cognition After Severe Brain Injury

Adrian Owen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, is addressing one of the most challenging topics in clinical medicine—residual brain function in patients that are non‑responsive after suffering a severe brain injury.

Building on his earlier groundbreaking discoveries, Owen is using functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to detect and measure activity in patients who appear to be entirely vegetative. He is also developing new brain‑computer interfaces that will allow these patients to communicate with the outside world and expand their choices for therapy.

As a Canada Excellence Research Chair, Owen is also studying the cognitive deficits (problems in perceiving, thinking, reasoning and remembering) in patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Drawing on existing expertise at Western University in genetics, cognitive neuroscience, neurology, and brain imaging, Owen is exploring the nature and causes of these neurodegenerative diseases, with the goal of improving their early detection and treatment.

Together, Owen’s pioneering techniques offer a new window into the consciousness of brain‑injured patients and a new understanding of the causes of neurodegenerative disease. His work will improve health care delivery for patients across Canada, and provide a solid foundation for future leading-edge research at Western by encouraging links between neuroscientists, biomedical engineers and clinicians, and providing new opportunities for both research and industry.



Release date

October 11, 2011

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In my research I try to understand more about the effects of serious brain injury in order to improve diagnosis, early detection and perhaps, even find possible new treatments.

I also work on neurodegenerative diseases Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and ALS to try and understand what causes the memory and perception deficits that these patients often experience.

We've recently been able to show that some patients who appear to be entirely vegetative are actually consciously aware, and in some cases using our advanced neuro-imaging techniques we've shown that they can even communicate with the outside world, just by changing their patterns of brain activity.

In January 2011, I will be moving to the University of Western Ontario.

The University of Western Ontario is at the forefront of research into cognitive neuroscience, genetics, neurology and functional neuro-imaging. And the opportunity to work with experts in all of these areas will really enable me to push my research that little bit further.

Well, by trying to understand as much as we can about the effects of serious brain injury, I think we will improve the delivery of health care across Canada and across the entire world for patients that find themselves in this situation. Hopefully, we can improve the lives of patients who have suffered severe brain injury.