Nancy Mannix – How To Build A Brain

April 13th 2022 Hyatt Regency Main Ballroom 3:00 pm

Session Description

Lifelong health is determined by more than just our genes. Converging lines of evidence from neuroscience, molecular biology, genetics, and the social sciences tell us that early experiences are literally built into our brains and bodies to affect life course trajectories, for good or for ill. Significant adversity in childhood increases the risk of addictions, mental health problems, and several chronic diseases, sometimes only decades later in life. In this session, you will learn how brains are built: what kind of experiences promote healthy brain architecture, what kind of experiences derail it, and how these experiences get “under our skins” to affect learning, health, and social outcomes across the life span. This information has profound implications for health care professionals across all aspects of the care continuum.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how brain circuits are formed and mature, and how social interactions are critical to this process.
  • Describe how toxic stress derails brain development.
  • Explore how this science can be used to build the foundations of resilience in children, adults, and families.


Boivin, Michel, & Hertzman, Clyde. (Eds.). (2012). Early Childhood Development: adverse experiences and developmental health. Royal Society of Canada – Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Expert Panel (with Ronald Barr, Thomas Boyce, Alison Fleming, Harriet MacMillan, Candice Odgers, Marla Sokolowski, & Nico Trocmé). Ottawa, ON: Royal Society of Canada. Available from:

National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice
Vibrant and Healthy Kids: Aligning Science, Practice and Policy to Advance Health Equity (Brain Story Certification Reference)

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Early Brain and Biological Development and Early Learning (Reference)

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2018) : Understanding Motivation: Building the Brain Architecture That Supports Learning, Health, and Community Participation: Working Paper 14.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005, updated 2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper 3.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2015). Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13.


Nancy Mannix is the Chair and Patron of the Palix Foundation, a private foundation whose philanthropy aims to ultimately support improved health and wellness outcomes for all children and families.

The Foundation, through the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, focuses on creating alignments between science, policy and practice in the areas of brain development and its implications for child development, mental health and addiction ultimately generating changes at an individual, organizational and systems level.

The work Nancy has done with the Palix Foundation has garnered some prestigious awards such as the 2015 Canadian Medical Award for Excellence in Health Promotion; the 2014 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction True Leadership Award; the 2013 Certificate of Recognition by the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 2010-2011 President’s Award, Canadian Mental Health Association and the 2006 Medal for Exceptional Contribution for Early Childhood Development by the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development.

Nancy has served as a member of the Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions Board and her long career and highly regarded work in the charitable sector has included a number of organizations such as the Calgary Health Trust and the Canada West Foundation. She has also served on numerous boards including the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute.

Nancy has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of San Diego and a Juris Doctor Degree from Seattle University.