Congratulations to Dr. Thalia Field, who is leading one of the three successful research teams of the augural Congenital Heart Disease Team Grants competition. Her team’s project titled “Lifespan Brain Health Trajectories in Congenital Heart Disease: the role of sex & gender” will study the connection between the brain and the heart.


Congenital heart disease (CHD) refers to problems with heart structure and function that begin at birth. People with CHD are now living longer than ever before because of medical and surgical advances. Unfortunately, CHD can be linked to issues with brain health, including issues with brain development and growth at birth linked to heart development issues. It can also include problems that develop over time due to heart issues with aging, including strokes, low blood and oxygen supply to the brain, and medical procedures and surgeries. Other issues related to mental health and well-being can also occur. However, how these experiences and risks are different between men and women is not known.

With this research project, Dr. Field and her team will look at how brain health changes throughout life in CHD and whether there are different considerations for men and women. They will do this in three main ways:

  1. Combining brain scan studies in people with CHD of different ages and looking for trends by age and sex
  2. Studying 8-year-old children with CHD who had brain scans as infants and seeing what factors have affected their brain health status over time
  3. Special mathematical approaches (“network analysis”) to look at how medical factors interact with life experiences to influence brain health

It is expected that this work will generate new knowledge that will help to improve treatment and prevention to improve brain health for individuals living with CHD, their families and caregivers.

Funding for the Congenital Heart Disease Team Grants has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada Foundation; the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and its Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health and Institute of Genetics; and Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada.