News

Light at the end of the channel

Mohamed Chahine

Dr. Mohamed Chahine

Researchers elucidate the structure of ion channels in the cell membrane

A breakthrough in basic science made by researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of Laval University may shed new light on cardiac arrhythmia, pain, epilepsy and some forms of paralysis.

Attack! Silent watchmen charge to defend the nervous system

Dr. Stephano Stifani

Dr. Stephano Stifani

In many pathologies of the nervous system, there is a common event – cells called microglia are activated from surveillant watchmen into fighters. Microglia are the immune cells of the nervous system, ingesting and destroying pathogens and damaged nerve cells. Until now little was known about the molecular mechanisms of microglia activation despite this being a critical process in the body.

Childhood abuse leads to poor adult health

Dr Jean-Philippe Gouin

Dr Jean-Philippe Gouin

Adults victimized as children are at an increased risk for disease, Concordia study shows

The psychological scars of childhood abuse can last well into adulthood. New research from Concordia University shows the harm can have longterm negative physical effects, as well as emotional ones.

New cause of child blindness identified

Dr Robert Koenekoop

Dr. Robert Koenekoop

One of the mysteries of blindness has been solved. A team of international scientists in collaboration with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) identified a new gene responsible for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a devastating genetic form of blindness in newborns.

U0niversity of Toronto study demonstrates impact of adversity on early life development

Dr. Marla Sokolowski

Dr. Marla Sokolowski

Study part of growing body of knowledge surrounding gene-environment interplay

TORONTO, ON – It is time to put the nature versus nurture debate to rest and embrace growing evidence that it is the interaction between biology and environment in early life that influences human development, according to a series of studies recently published in a special edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Fruit fly’s ‘sweet tooth’ short-lived: UBC research

Dr. Michael Gordon

Dr. Michael Gordon

The humble fruit fly may have something to teach us about forgoing empty calories for more nutritional ones – especially when we’re hungry.

While the flies initially prefer food with a sweet flavour, they quickly learn to opt for less sweet food sources that offer more calories and nutritional value, according to new research by University of British Columbia zoologists.

Early life adversity affects broad regions of brain DNA

Dr. Moshe Szyf

Study provides strong evidence of a biological process that embeds social experience in DNA that affects not just a few genes but entire networks of genes.

Early life experience results in a broad change in the way our DNA is “epigenetically” chemically marked in the brain by a coat of small chemicals called methyl groups, according to researchers at McGill University.

Scientists discover gene behind rare disorders

Dr. Eric Shoubridge

International study with researchers at The Neuro reveals links with other neurodegenerative diseases

Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro,  McGill University working with a team at Oxford University have uncovered the genetic defect underlying a group of rare genetic disorders.  

How genetics shape our addictions

Alain Dagher

Dr. Alain Dagher

Genes predict the brain’s reaction to smoking

Have you ever wondered why some people find it so much easier to stop smoking than others? New research shows that vulnerability to smoking addiction is shaped by our genes. A study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University shows that people with genetically fast nicotine metabolism have a significantly greater brain response to smoking cues than those with slow nicotine metabolism.

Kurt Haas discovers master regulator of brain plasticity

Dr Kurt Haas

Dr. Kurt Haas

Synaptic plasticity, or the ability of neurons to form, strengthen, or weaken connections with each other, has long been studied as the basis for learning and memory. While the cellular processes and biological mechanisms involved are complex, much progress has been made at the Brain Research Centre and other research institutes around the world towards understanding this dynamic brain process.

Maternal depression affects language development in babies

Dr. Janet Werker

Dr. Janet Werker

Maternal depression and a common class of antidepressants can alter a crucial period of language development in babies, according to a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Harvard University and the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) at BC Children’s Hospital.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study finds that treatment of maternal depression with serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SRIs) can accelerate babies’ ability to attune to the sounds and sights of their native language, while untreated maternal depression can prolong the period of tuning.

Researchers link genetic mutation to psychiatric disease and obesity

Dr. Carl Ernst

Dr. Carl Ernst

McGill researchers have identified a small region in the genome that conclusively plays a role in the development of psychiatric disease and obesity. The key lies in the genomic deletion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a nervous system growth factor that plays a critical role in brain development.

To determine the role of BDNF in humans, Carl Ernst, PhD, from McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, screened over 35,000 people referred for genetic screening at clinics and over 30,000 control subjects in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

A Memorable Protein

Paul De Koninck, Mado Lemieux

Lemieux, De Koninck

Researchers demonstrate the key role played by a protein in learning and memory

Learning and remembering are based on molecular mechanisms that are still poorly understood. According to some experts, information is stored in the brain and reactivated as required by strengthening synapses that link neurons together. The strength of these links depends on the abundance of neurotransmitters, receptors, and of all other molecules involved in chemical transmission of information.

Eye test helps diagnose neurological disorders

Douglas Munoz

Dr. Douglas Munoz

A new test that measures eye movement while watching television helps detect neurological disorders earlier including Parkinson’s disease, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The low-cost test, developed at Queen’s University and the University of Southern California, provides new insight into how specific disorders affect attention.

Astrocytes: The superheroes of brain cells

Brian MacVicar

Dr. Brian MacVicar

Eight years ago, Brian MacVicar discovered that astrocytes—cells that surround nerve cells and all blood vessels in the brain—have a primary role in regulating blood flow within the brain, which provided a new target for potential therapies for stroke, migraine, and vascular dementia. Now he and Hyun Beom Choi, a research associate in his lab, have uncovered a new role for this heroic brain cell: detecting problems in the brain and delivering nutrients to keep brain cells healthy in times of critical need.

“Using your Brain” video receives honorable mention from SfN

Using your brain

The Brain Awareness Video Contest is organized by SfN to provide videos to the public on various topics related to the brain and nervous system. This year, the honorable mention place winner is Kenneth Dyson who made his video with help from his two sons (6 and 12 year-old Taj and Deszmo). Kenneth is a postdoctoral fellow at Université de Montréal. His video, Using Your Brain, can be viewed here. Vote for his video for the Brain Awareness Week People’s choice award!

LDI researcher develops promising model for schizophrenia

Dr. Hyman Schipper

Dr. Hyman Schipper, a neurologist and researcher at the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital and Professor of Neurology and Medicine at McGill University, has discovered a new pathway that holds promise for unlocking some of the mysteries of schizophrenia, a serious mental illness afflicting about one in every hundred persons and characterized by varying degrees of abnormal thought and mood, and dissociation from reality. Its causes are unknown and, though treatable, it remains incurable.

Caffeine may ease Parkinson’s symptoms

Dr. Ronald Postuma

Caffeine, which is widely consumed around the world in coffee, tea and soft drinks, may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson’s. This is the finding of a study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) that was recently published in Neurology®, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study opens the door to new treatment options for Parkinson’s disease that affects approximately 100 000 Canadians.

Finding may suggest new treatments for sleep disorders

John Peever Two powerful brain chemical systems work together to paralyze skeletal muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, according to new research in the July 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The finding may help scientists better understand and treat sleep disorders, including narcolepsy, tooth grinding, and REM sleep behavior disorder.

Widely prescribed MS treatment may not slow progression of disease: Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC Research

Dr Helen Tremlett

Dr. Helen Tremlett

Researchers with the UBC Hospital MS Clinic and Brain Research Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia have published important data in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) about the impact of a common drug therapy on the progression of multiple sclerosis for people with the relapsing-remitting form of the disease.

Brain scans detect early signs of autism

Dr. Alan Evans

A new study shows significant differences in brain development in high-risk infants who develop autism starting as early as age 6 months. The findings published in the American Journal of Psychiatry reveal that this abnormal brain development may be detected before the appearance of autism symptoms in an infant’s first year of life. Autism is typically diagnosed around the age of 2 or 3.

McGill researchers discover the cause of an inherited form of epilepsy

Dr. Gary Brouhard

Findings could open avenues for improved therapies for a range of conditions

Researchers at McGill University have discovered the cause of an inherited form of epilepsy. The disease, known as double-cortex syndrome, primarily affects females and arises from mutations on a gene located on the X chromosome.

Multiple sclerosis patients have lower risk of cancer: UBC-VCH research

Dr. Ellen Kingwell

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients appear to have a lower cancer risk, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The study, published online in the journal Brain, is the first to investigate overall cancer risk in MS patients in North America.

The Mammalian Methylome: Investigating how cells regulate gene expression in the brain

Dr. Cathy Barr

In developing humans and other mammals, not all genes are created equal – or equally used. The expression of certain genes, known as imprinted genes, is determined by just one copy of the parents’ genetic contribution. In humans, there are at least 80 known imprinted genes. If a copy of an imprinted gene fails to function correctly – or if both copies are expressed – the result can be a variety of heritable conditions, such as Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes, or increased risk for cancer.