News

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.

Scientists start explaining Fat Bastard’s vicious cycle

Stephanie Fulton

Stephanie Fulton

May 24, 2012 -Fat Bastard’s revelation “I eat because I’m depressed and I’m depressed because I eat” in the Austin Powers film series may be explained by sophisticated neuroscience research being undertaken by scientists affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) and the university’s Faculty of Medicine.

Discovery of a gene that causes Joubert Syndrome in the population of the Lower St. Lawrence region of Quebec

Jacques Michaud

May 10, 2012 – C5ORF42 was identified as the gene that causes Joubert Syndrome in a number of families in the Lower St. Lawrence region of Quebec where the causal gene had remained unknown since the initial description of the syndrome in 1969. This is what a study in the April issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics reveals. The study was conducted by researchers from the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the Centre of Excellence in Neuromics of Université de Montréal’s (CENUM).

Neuro researchers sharpen our understanding of memories

Jean-Claude Lacaille

May 2, 2012 – Scientists now have a better understanding of how precise memories are formed thanks to research led by Prof. Jean-Claude Lacaille of the University of Montreal’s Department of Physiology. “In terms of human applications, these findings could help us to better understand memory impairments in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” Lacaille said. The study looks at the cells in our brains, or neurons, and how they work together as a group to form memories.

Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief: UBC study

Ara Norenzayan

April 26, 2012 – A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers.

The study, which will appear in tomorrow’s issue of Science, finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important new light on the psychology of religious belief.

Taking it all in: revealing how we sense things

Maurice Chacron

April 24, 2012 – McGill physiology research team sheds light on how the brain processes what we sense

We rely on our senses in all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, many people suffer from some kind of impaired sensory function. In Canada alone, 600,000 people are visually impaired while almost three million suffer from partial or total hearing loss.

Preventing dementia: new research by VCH and UBC shows the trajectory of cognitive decline can be altered in seniors at risk for dementia

Theresa Liu-Ambrose

April 23, 2012 – Cognitive decline is a pressing global health care issue. Worldwide, one case of dementia is detected every seven seconds. Mild cognitive impairment is a well recognized risk factor for dementia, and represents a critical window of opportunity for intervening and altering the trajectory of cognitive decline in seniors.

Researchers uncover clue to autism mystery

Stephen Scherer

April 13 2012 – Genetic glitch affects boys
Autism researchers have uncovered a clue to the mystery of why autism affects four times as many boys as girls: a genetic glitch that only affects boys.

Cholesterol drug shows benefit in animal study of Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. Edith Hamel

April 5, 2012 – Improvement shown in blood vessel function following drug treatment. A cholesterol drug commonly prescribed to reduce cardiovascular disease risk restores blood vessel function in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study in the April 4 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Why some pain drugs become less effective over time

April 5, 2012 – Researchers at the University of Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital have identified how neural cells are able to build up resistance to opioid pain drugs within hours. “A better understanding of these mechanisms will enable us to design drugs that avoid body resistance to these drugs and produce longer therapeutic responses, including longer-acting opioid analgesics”, lead author Dr. Graciela Pineyro said.

Study suggests new way to treat chronic pain

Dr. Jeffrey Mogil

March 27 2012 – Gene that encodes crucial pain receptor may be key to
individualizing therapy for major health problem

Nearly one in five people suffers from the insidious and often devastating problem of chronic pain.

Collaboration rapidly connects fly gene discovery to human disease

Dr. Bernard Brais

March 22, 2012 – A collaborative study by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University, and published March 20 in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology, has discovered that mutations in the same gene that encodes part of the vital machinery of the mitochondrion can cause neurodegenerative disorders in both fruit flies and humans.