Wellness | Mental Health, Physical Health

Branch Out Neurological Foundation

Filling a gap in neuroscience by accelerating tech solutions and non-pharmaceutical approaches for neurological disorders such as Parkinsons, Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, Epilepsy, Autism, Concussion etc.

Our Story

Why We Exist

Back in 2005, only months after learning I was an early hopeful for the 2010 Olympics speed skating team, I received another piece of news that would change my life forever.

At 19 years old, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disorder with no cure. I was also told I would probably never speed skate again.

With that determination of an elite athlete, invincible teenage mindset and after several months of therapy, I found the strength to tie up my skates and start competing again. Although I could skate again, I had another major relapse in 2006 and again in 2009 when I was told my disease was progressing and I would become wheelchair bound in the coming years. After receiving this news and trying 5 years of drug therapies with harsh side effects and little to no impact on my disease, I decided to take a different, more natural approach by going off of my drug therapy and focusing on nutrition, herbal medicine, massage and other integrative approaches towards rebalancing my nervous system.

Not only did I feel better, but it made sense to me. 8 months after I went went off my drugs I came 6 spots off the Canadian Olympic team and 8 years later I am thriving with health, and am relapse/symptom free!

Throughout my personal journey, a few gaps became clear to me: a lack of high-quality research, credibility and funding for some of the more natural approaches to healing the nervous system.

To address these gaps, I, along with co-founder Graham Daw, started the Branch Out Neurological Foundation in 2010 to literally ‘Branch Out’ and establish a new and now emerging field of research termed neuroCAM (neuroscience + complementary and alternative modalities).

Myself along with 100+ dedicated volunteers raise money through fundraising events such as the Branch Out Bike Tour and Snowshoe Tour. We have been attracting new donors and sponsors and partner with businesses who are all eager to join our legacy to establish Calgary as a world renowned center for neuroCAM research.

This past June, the foundation hit its second million-dollar fundraising milestone. NeuroCAM is now an emerging field of research across western Canada with 50+ groundbreaking neuroCAM research projects underway. In the next year, we will co-host the first ever global summit focused on “Brain Aging” and by 2020 we are aiming to open the doors to a collaborative, interdisciplinary facility where the fields of neuroCAM research, science, tech, and business can serendipidously collide to help find innovative and alternative solutions for neurological disorders.

I know that neuroCAM research will help make the future a little brighter for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with neurological disorders. To this day, I never picture myself in a wheelchair and I don’t believe that will be my future. Instead, I envision a future of a world free from neurological disorders.

Thank you

Crystal Phillips,                                                                                                                                             Executive Director, Co-Founder

Our Impact

What We Do

The Challenge:

  • 20% of the world’s population suffers from a neurological disorder.
  • There are over 600 different types of brain abnormalities.
  • There is both a desire and need for alternative and non-pharmaceutical treatments, with little to no funds available.


  • Since 2010, we’ve raised more than $2 Million for alternative brain research (we have funded tech solutions and non-pharmaceutical approaches to over 600 brain disorders).
  • We’ve accelerated the ‘bench to bedside’ pathway by funding research projects directly impacting patients in less than six (6) years.
  • We’ve funded over fifty two (52) research project and have expanded our University Grant Program to partner with five Universities across Western Canada (UofC,UofA, UofL, UofS, UofVic).

Impact Story:

Pioneering the Use of Magnetic Brain Stimulation to Fight Depression in Youth

Dr. Frank P. MacMaster, University of Calgary

One in nine Canadians aged 15 to 24 suffers from depression—this is the highest rate of depression in any age group. Depression has negative impacts at home, at school, with friends and with family, and the impacts can be felt for decades. Unfortunately, front line treatments only work in about half of youth, leaving many ill and vulnerable to suicide—the second leading cause of death in this age group. Depression threatens their very lives. With funding from Branch Out, Frank MacMaster’s lab pioneered the use of magetic brain stimulation (TMS) to fight depression in youth. This novel technology offers new hope for those who are suffering and Dr. MacMasters work has helped spearhead efforts to bring brain stimulation to Alberta as a clinical service.

“Brain stimulation truly saved my life. It scares me to think of what I may have done if I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate.”                                                                                               – Study Participant


Music-Motion App Helping Parkinson’s Patients Walk Better

Dr. Bin Hu, University of Calgary

With Branch Out funding, Dr. Bin Hu and his team at the University of Calgary have developed the Ambulosono (or Walking-Song) app as a part of a larger program to help Parkinson’s disease patients in overcoming their walking disabilities. For many people living with Parkinson’s, the disease can not only dramatically affect their gait (the way they walk), but deter them from participating in social activity and physical exercise. Hu’s research discovered that brain circuits for music perceptions can help initiate and control a movement response. To use the app, patients strap the motion sensors to their leg and use the device to produce signals with their body movements that can turn music on or off. Freezing and shuffling steps stop the music from playing. After each walk, the app automatically sends the data to researchers who can remotely customize the program settings to ensure patients can walk safely with optimal outcomes. To learn more on this research click here: Music Walking Program for Parkinson’s

Our Programs

How We Do It

Research Funding:

To date, we have funded 62 groudbreaking research projects from an Undergraduate to Principle Investigator level. All research proposals are reviewed by our Scientific Review Panel to ensure it meets the highest quality of research methods and scientific measures. Research results will generate reliable data for physicians and patients, allowing for informed decisions about all potential treatment options. Some examples of the research we’ve funded include:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation on youth depression.
  • High-fat or ketogenic diet in Autism
  • The effects of music on mitigating “freezing” in Parkinson’s patients
  • Black tea extract on brain trauma

Click here to see a full list of the research projects we’ve funded.

Global Brain Aging Summit

In June 2018, we will co-host our first global NeuroCAM Summit in Banff, with a focus on Brain Aging. Currently we are seeking sponsorships from a $5,000-20k level to help us create a stand out event to advance leading scientists neuroCAM research for years to come.

Calgary NeuroCAM Research Centre 

By 2020, we are aiming to establish Calgary as a global hub for neuroCAM Research.

We are striving to be recognized as leaders in  developing creative cross industry collaborations and attract the top experts who are working towards solving the many mysteries of the brain. This hub is a significant step towards increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the i2i (Idea to Impact) pipeline identified throughout our robust experience navigating the healthcare and research systems.

To date, we have hosted annual fundraising events, raising a total of 2 Million dollars. Now we’re on a mission to raise millions more by inviting philanthropists to join our mission, mark Calgary on the global neuroscience research map and help us all see a world free from neurological disorders in our future.


Our Requests

What You Can Do


1.  Legacy Partner

  • Help make the first neuroCAM Research Centre in Calgary a reality. This is our biggest project yet! It is a project for Calgarians to be so proud to stand behind as it will be a disruptor in the research sector by incorporating a multi interdisciplinary approach to an important goal: solve neurological disorders through the use of innovative technologies and non-pharmaceutical approaches.
  • Fund and name the first ever neuroCAM Research Chair position.

If interested, please contact our Co-Founder and Executive Director, Crystal Phillips, to discuss further.

  • CALL – 403.200.0494
  • EMAIL – crystal@branchoutfoundation.com

2. DonateThere are three ways to donate.

  1. Make a one-time donation;
  2. Join our Monthly Donor Club (Become one of 150 new monthly donors of 2017, in celebration of Canada’s  150th! Monthly prizes to be won)
  3. Create an installment plan;  or

3. Hire a neuroscientist to come to your office and engage your emlpoyees in a fun-              filled neuro trivia challenge.

4. Sponsor  or Take Part in an EventThe most fun you can have supporting Branch Out.      Learn what exciting activities are around the corner.

5. VolunteerSee what volunteer options are currently available. We always need helping             hands willing to promote brains at their best.


Stay Connected


Crystal Phillips

Branch Out Neurological Foundation


Charitable Number: 815812284RR0001

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Annual Operating Budget: