News

New insights into clogged brain capillaries and why we lose them with age

Craig Brown

Craig Brown

Scientists have known for years that blood vessel loss in the brain impacts cognitive decline as people age. New research from the University of Victoria has provided an explanation for why we lose blood vessels—vital knowledge that could lead to better preventive and protective strategies for maintaining brain health.

UVic neuroscientist Craig Brown and PhD student Patrick Reeson have been researching the phenomenon of clogged capillaries, the brain’s smallest blood vessels. These tiny capillaries routinely get “stuck,” clogged by cells, fat and debris in the blood. Most clear within seconds to minutes, however some can remain stuck for much longer, but what ultimately happens to these lingering clogs has remained a mystery.

National study on vulnerability in mental health and psychiatric research

Invitation to participate in a research study on vulnerability in mental health research ethics

National study on vulnerability in mental health and psychiatric research

Does a mental health condition prevent someone from being able to participate to research?

What are acceptable conditions for ethical mental health and psychiatric research?

Strict eating schedule can lower Huntington disease protein in mice

Michael Hayden

Michael Hayden

New research from the University of British Columbia suggests that following a strict eating schedule can help clear away the protein responsible for Huntington disease in mice.

Huntington disease (HD) is an inherited, progressive disorder that causes involuntary movements and psychiatric problems. Symptoms appear in adulthood and worsen over time. Children born to a parent with HD have a one in two chance of inheriting the disease, which is caused by a buildup of mutant huntingtin protein (mHTT).

Better understanding ALS by looking at how cells change

Jade-Emmanuelle Deshaies - Christine Vande Velde

Jade-Emmanuelle Deshaies – Christine Vande Velde

Eight years in the making, a discovery by neuroscientists at the CRCHUM highlights the value of long-term, fundamental research and provides important information for future drug targets.

It took eight long years of research, but now an international team led by neuroscientists at Université de Montréal has discovered a basic molecular mechanism that better helps understand how Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), works.

McMaster researchers pinpoint genes causing complex brain disorders

Karun Singh

McMaster University Scientists have published 2 studies identifying which gene is responsible for causing brain development disorders when several genes are deleted in an individual’s genome, providing a path forward for developing new therapies.

In Ontario, there are more than 300,000 children and youth affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and intellectual disability. These disorders typically cause long-term problems and impact the day-to-day life of affected individuals and families. There are no specific treatments, and medications have side-effects that can be severe in children and young adults.

Research uncovers new link between head trauma, CTE and ALS

Strong & Moszczynski

Researchers at Western University have uncovered a unique neurobiological pathway triggered by head trauma which underlies both Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

CTE is a fatal neurodegenerative disease shown to be a result of repeated head trauma, and is associated with elite athletes involved in contact sports. Previous research has shown that between 4 and 6 per cent of patients with CTE will also simultaneously show clinical features of ALS – that’s 800 fold higher than the prevalence of ALS in the general population.

Not being aware of memory problems predicts onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Pedro Rosa-Neto

Pedro Rosa-Neto

New research could provide clinicians with insights regarding clinical progression to dementia

Doctors who work with individuals at risk of developing dementia have long suspected that patients who do not realize they experience memory problems are at greater risk of seeing their condition worsen in a short time frame, a suspicion that now has been confirmed by a team of McGill University clinician scientists.

Concussion stalls adolescent brains, reduces cognitive flexibility

Naznin Virji-Babul

Naznin Virji-Babul

Concussion affects the developing adolescent brain and may delay key cognitive processes, hampering the brain’s ability to change focus and pay attention. New research from Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul’s team, published today in the journal ASN Neuro, shows that concussion changes the way that different neural networks interact, stalling the brain in a state of cognitive inflexibility.

Even at rest, the brain is continuously active, processing and exchanging information.  This active interaction between different parts of the brain is necessary for a person to be aware of her surroundings, or to be able to focus on his work or switch between tasks.

Longer, better, faster … smaller? New genome sequencing tool promises richer biological insight

Terrance Snutch

Terrance Snutch

For the past three years, Dr. Terrance Snutch and research associate Dr. John Tyson have been working with Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) to develop a novel deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing tool with promising implications for personalized medicine. About the size of a mobile phone, the MinION device is a USB-powered DNA sequencer capable of mapping complex genomic structures; with it, researchers were recently able to assemble a complete human genome using reads hundreds of times larger than has previously been possible with conventional methods.

A mutation that causes mirrored sensations

Artur Kania and Ronan da Silva

Artur Kania and Ronan da Silva

Research from the IRCM contributes to our understanding of how our brain locates painful stimuli

When you experience a painful sensation such as touching a hot stove with your hand, the pain is restricted to your hand, allowing you to remove it quickly from the source of heat. How does the brain know that the pain is indeed coming from your hand and not from anywhere else on your body? Work recently published by Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) researchers help clarifying this question.

Revolutionary technology allows brain surgery without breaking the skin

Zelma KissUniversity of Calgary research study benefits people with severe essential tremor

Elias Pharaon is 85 years old and can sign his name for the first time in five years thanks to a new way to do brain surgery. Performed by a team of University of Calgary physicians and researchers with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a new technology that allows surgeons to access the brain without cutting the skin or drilling into the skull.

UCalgary researcher leads Canada-wide clinical trial using anti-psychotic drug to treat ALS

Lawrence Korngut

Pimozide, known for treating certain psychiatric conditions, may stabilize progression of the disease. The University of Calgary’s Lawrence Korngut is leading a clinical trial with nine hospital centres across Canada to recruit patients for further study.
If you took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you may have wondered where the money raised by the millions of people who poured buckets of ice water over their heads went. Some of those funds are being invested in a University of Calgary research study investigating a potential drug treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients.

Is your stress changing my brain?

Bains & Sterley

Bains & Sterley

UCalgary researchers discover stress isn’t just contagious; it alters the brain on a cellular level

In a new study in Nature Neuroscience, Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary have discovered that stress transmitted from others can change the brain in the same way as a real stress does. The study, in mice, also shows that the effects of stress on the brain are reversed in female mice following a social interaction. This was not true for male mice.

Researchers suggest a new approach to improve neuron grafts in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease

Martin LévesqueTreating people affected by Parkinson’s disease by grafting healthy neurons is an attractive idea which has not yet given the anticipated results up until now.  Even if grafted neurons survive, they are not able to recreate the dopaminergic neuron circuits that are essential for normal brain function.  An international team led by Martin Lévesque, professor at Université Laval and researcher at the CERVO Brain Research Centre, might have figured out why.  In a recent edition of Nature Communications, the researchers propose a “recipe” to produce neurons that could reconstitute the neuron circuits that are destroyed by Parkinson’s disease.

Progression of Parkinson’s disease follows brain connectivity

Alain Dagher

Dr. Alain Dagher

A study by a group of researchers led by Alain Dagher from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University has tested the theory that brain degeneration in Parkinson’s disease (PD) originates in subcortical regions and spreads along neural networks to the cerebral cortex. By analyzing data on PD patients and healthy controls collected over one year, the researchers found that brain regions closely connected to subcortical regions showed the most degeneration over the one-year period in PD patients, and that this happens earlier than previously thought.

Researcher Hideto Takahashi decrypts signals from neurons

Hideto Takahashi

Hideto Takahashi

A discovery by Hideto Takahashi and his team paves the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Did you know? Your body is made up of a hundred billion nerve cells that, like small computers, receive, process and deliver crucial information to your body. These machines are your neurons. They form the very foundation of your nervous system. It is through them that your brain converts the data transmitted by your retina into images and that your mood adapts to the situations you are living.

A non-invasive method to detect Alzheimer’s disease

John Breitner

John Breitner

Volume in brain region linked to physiological changes characteristic of AD

New research has drawn a link between changes in the brain’s anatomy and biomarkers that are known to appear at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), findings that could one day provide a sensitive but non-invasive test for AD before cognitive symptoms appear.

How chronic social stress can lead to depression

Caroline Ménard

Caroline Ménard

A recent publication by Caroline Ménard shows that chronic stress, as occurs in cases of bullying, can make the blood-brain barrier more permeable to contaminants and microbes that may be in the blood.  As the brains of depressed individuals show signs of inflammation, Caroline Ménard and her colleagues had hypothesized that leakiness of the blood brain barrier could allow molecules and microbes to reach the brain, causing inflammation.

SickKids researchers discover precise molecular mechanisms that can influence memory

Zhengping Jia

Zhengping Jia

Learning and memory are crucial parts of human cognition, yet the biological processes that govern how we learn and store different types of memories are poorly understood. Although a cellular process called synaptic plasticity has long been thought to contribute to learning and memory, many of the neural mechanisms behind synaptic plasticity have remained unclear.

In a recently published study entitled The C-terminal tails of endogenous GluA1 and GluA2 differentially contribute to hippocampal synaptic plasticity and learning, researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have discovered the precise neuronal mechanisms that can regulate synaptic plasticity to influence distinct forms of memory. We sat down with Dr. Zhengping Jia, a Senior Scientist in the Neurosciences & Mental Health Program at SickKids who led the study, published online in Nature Neuroscience.

Canadian Researchers Reveal How Certain Chronic Diseases Can Worsen The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis

Ruth Ann Marrie

Ruth Ann Marrie

Multiple Sclerosis is known as a progressive disease in which symptoms worsen over time. But for some 85% of those who suffer, the first stages of the illness come in waves. The individual may feel perfectly well some days while others are marked with worsening or new symptoms.

Officially this condition is known as relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) and it is the focus of a large Canadian conglomerate known as the CIHR Team in Epidemiology and Impact of Comorbidity on Multiple Sclerosis, or ECoMS. As the name implies, the group aims to determine how co-existing chronic diseases – comorbidities – affect those suffering with MS. Last week, representatives of the team, headed by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie at the University of Manitoba and Director of Manitoba’s MS Clinic at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, revealed their findings in the journal, Neurology.

uOBMRI researchers open new doors for Parkinson’s drug therapies

David Park

David Park

Dr. David Park has spent countless hours exploring how deactivating a gene impacts the way a cell handles the very nutrients it needs for its own survival and proper function. To Park and his research team, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle that is Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s affects 10 million people worldwide, causing a degeneration of the body’s nerve cells and a progressive loss of motor control.

Neuroscientists link memory fundamentals with Alzheimer’s disease in promising study

Paul Frankland

Paul Frankland

Deteriorating memory function is a scary, life changing symptom associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – a neurodegenerative disease exhibited by cognitive declines such as speech, behaviour and thinking processes. Even though it is the most common form of dementia and the prevalence is continuously rising, there is no cure. While there are medications to help with symptoms, the disease ultimately results in mortality.

Child abuse affects brain wiring

Gustavo Turecki

Gustavo Turecki

Researchers from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry, have just published research in the American Journal of Psychiatry that suggests that the long-lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences, like severe abuse, may be due to an impaired structure and functioning of cells in the anterior cingulate cortex. This is a part of the brain which plays an important role in the regulation of emotions and mood.