News

Alzheimer’s disease : It takes two (proteins) to tango

Pedro Rosa-Neto

Pedro Rosa-Neto

For years, neuroscientists have puzzled over how two abnormal proteins, called amyloid and tau, accumulate in the brain and damage it to cause Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Which one is the driving force behind dementia? The answer: both of them, according to a new study by researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

In the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the team led by Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto, a clinician scientist at the Douglas and assistant professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry at McGill University, reports for the first time evidence that the interaction between amyloid and tau proteins drives brain damage in cognitively intact individuals.

Brain cells that aid appetite control identified

Maia Kokoeva

Maia Kokoeva

Discovery opens door to development of new drugs to control weight gain and obesity
It’s rare for scientists to get what they describe as “clean” results without spending a lot of time repeating the same experiment over and over again. But when researchers saw the mice they were working with doubling their weight within a month or two, they knew they were on to something.

Chemical in marijuana shows promise in treating schizophrenia

Laviolette and Renard

Laviolette and Renard

According to new research at Western University, marijuana is the ultimate contradiction; at least when it comes to schizophrenia.

This first-of-its-kind study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, demonstrates that a chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol, or CBD, affects the brain in a way that makes it an ideal treatment option for schizophrenia. This research comes just months after the same lab found that adolescent exposure to THC, the other major compound found in marijuana, may lead to the onset of schizophrenia in adulthood.

Mechanism that reduces effect of cocaine on brain discovered

Sarah Konefal, David Stellwagen

Sarah Konefal, David Stellwagen

Finding offers hope for development of a new approach to prevent drug use relapses

A type of brain cell known as microglia plays a key role in reducing the effects of cocaine in the brain, according to a major study by a team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

Rapid eye movement sleep: keystone of memory formation

Sylvain Williams

Sylvain Williams

For decades, scientists have fiercely debated whether rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the phase where dreams appear – is directly involved in memory formation.

Now, a study published in Science by researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (McGill University) and the University of Bern provides evidence that REM sleep does, indeed, play this role – at least in mice.

What makes the brain tick so fast?

Dr. Derek Bowie

Derek Bowie

New study sheds light on the workings of brain neurotransmitter receptors

Surprisingly complex interactions between neurotransmitter receptors and other key proteins help explain the brain’s ability to process information with lightning speed, according to a new study.

Scientists at McGill University, working with collaborators at the universities of Oxford and Liverpool, combined experimental techniques to examine fast-acting protein macromolecules, known as AMPA receptors, which are a major player in brain signaling.  Their findings are reported online in the journal Neuron.

Location may be key to effectively controlling pain

Terence Coderre

Terence Coderre

Targeting the pain receptor at the cell’s nucleus has a major effect on its ability to transmit pain signals.

In real estate, location is key. It now seems the same concept holds true when it comes to stopping pain. New research published in Nature Communications by a team of researchers led by McGill University’s Director of Anesthesia Research Terence Coderre and Karen O’Malley at Washington University in St. Louis,  indicates that the location of receptors that transmit pain signals is important in how big or small a pain signal will be — and therefore how effectively drugs can block those signals.

Accidental finding leads to brain circuit development discovery

Jean-Claude Béïque

Jean-Claude Béïque

Researchers at the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute have pinpointed a set of rules that govern how brain circuits develop during early life, offering clues into neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Published in Neuron, one of the most influential journals in the field of neuroscience, their study shows how neuroplasticity guides brain development at the microscopic level, which ultimately sets the stage for how the mature brain operates.

Neurons actively modify the features of astrocytes in the brain

Keith Murai

Keith Murai

The brain gives up more secrets – Montreal scientists unveil a key mechanism that could improve brain function

A research team, led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal, has broken new ground in our understanding of the complex functioning of the brain.

The research, published in the current issue of the journal Science, demonstrates that brain cells, known as astrocytes, which play fundamental roles in nearly all aspects of brain function, can be adjusted by neurons in response to injury and disease. The discovery, which shows that the brain has a far greater ability to adapt and respond to changes than previously believed, could have significant implications on epilepsy, movement disorders, and psychiatric and neurodegenerative disease.

Vulnerability to depression linked to noradrenaline

Bruno Giros

Bruno Giros

First-ever connection between noradrenergic neurons and vulnerability to depression
The team of Bruno Giros, a researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and professor of psychiatry at McGill University, reports the first-ever connection between noradrenergic neurons and vulnerability to depression. Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, this breakthrough paves the way for new depression treatments that target the adrenergic system.

Sweets and treats rewire animal brains

Stephanie BorglandOvereating is the largest determinant of obesity, which is one of the biggest health crises affecting Canadians. A new animal study out of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine provides new insight into how high fat diets rapidly rewire the reward circuits in the brain, which can lead to an increase in food-seeking and risk-taking behaviours in the pursuit of food. The study will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States on February 15th.

Scientists discover new way to protect neurons during stroke

Roger ThompsonResearch from Roger Thompson’s laboratory, at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, shows new therapeutic could protect the brain and lead to better stroke outcomes.

The discovery of a new signaling pathway in neurons could help researchers understand how to protect the brain during a stroke. Researchers have long thought that a protein called the NMDA receptor was principally responsible for neuron death during a stroke, but the new animal study shows that it is, in fact, the interaction between NMDA receptors and another protein known as pannexin-1, that causes the neurons to die. The discovery was made at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, and published this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Discovery of a mechanism that controls neuron production from stem cells

Michel Cayouette

Michel Cayouette

The discovery by a team at the Institut de Recherche Clinique de Montréal (IRCM) could contribute to the development of cell therapies and more targeted treatments against cancer

A study conducted by a research team led by Michel Cayouette, Full IRCM Research Professor and Director of the Cellular Neurobiology research unit, in collaboration with a team led by Stéphane Angers, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, makes the cover of the latest edition of Developmental Cell following the discovery of a mechanism enabling the production of cellular diversity in the developing nervous system.

First language wires brain for later language-learning

Denise Klein

Denise Klein

Research also demonstrates brain’s plasticity and ability to adapt to new language environments

You may believe that you have forgotten the Chinese you spoke as a child, but your brain hasn’t. Moreover, that “forgotten” first language may well influence what goes on in your brain when you speak English or French today.

In a paper published today in Nature Communications, researchers from McGill University and the Montreal Neurological Institute describe their discovery that even brief, early exposure to a language influences how the brain processes sounds from a second language later in life. Even when the first language learned is no longer spoken.

Light therapy effective for depression: UBC study

Raymond Lam

Raymond Lam

New research finds that light therapy can treat non-seasonal depression and improve the overall wellbeing of people suffering from the disease.

“These results are very exciting because light therapy is inexpensive, easy to access and use, and comes with few side effects,” said Dr. Raymond Lam, a UBC professor and psychiatrist at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, a partnership between UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health. “Patients can easily use light therapy along with other treatments such as antidepressants and psychotherapy.”

New Hope for the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

Amit Bar-Or

Amit Bar-Or

A new study led by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University and the MUHC, gets closer to identifying the mechanisms responsible for multiple sclerosis and makes headway in the search for better treatments.

Modern scientific understanding has considered multiple sclerosis (MS) to be a disease controlled by the T cell, a type of white blood cell. Research has shown that in MS, T cells inappropriately attack myelin, the protective layer of fat covering nerves in the central nervous system, exposing them to damage.

What’s behind your thirst?

Cristian Zaelzer

Cristian Zaelzer

Discovery advances our understanding of how our brain controls body hydration and temperature
Scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and Duke University have made a breakthrough that advances our understanding of how the brain detects and prevents dehydration.
They have identified the structure of a key protein located in the brain, which is involved in body hydration and that could control temperature.

High energy consumption may explain death of cells in Parkinson’s disease

Louis-Eric Trudeau

Louis-Eric Trudeau

New research conducted in the laboratory of Louis-Éric Trudeau at the Université de Montréal helps explain why some neurons in the brain are specifically affected and die in Parkinson’s disease. His team found that the death of neurons affected by Parkinson’s, including some found in regions called the substantia nigra (literally “the black substance”), the locus ceruleus and the dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve, may be caused by a form of cellular energy crisis in neurons that require unusually high quantities of energy to carry out their job of regulating movement.

Abnormal fat build-up in the brain accelerates Alzheimer’s disease

Karl Fernandes

Karl Fernandes

A new study by Karl Fernandes, a researcher at the CRCHUM and a professor at Université de Montréal linking abnormal fast deposits in the brain and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.   “We found fatty acid deposits in the brain of patients who died from the disease and in mice that were genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Our experiments suggest that these abnormal fat deposits could be a trigger for the disease”, said Karl Fernandes.

The effects of cannabis on the male teenage brain

Tomas Paus

Tomas Paus

“Our study shows the importance of understanding environmental influences on the developing brain in early life” says Dr Tomas Paus, of the University of Toronto’s department of psychiatry. “Given the solid epidemiologic evidence supporting a link between cannabis exposure during adolescence and schizophrenia, we investigated whether the use of cannabis during early adolescence (by 16 years of age) is associated with variations in brain maturation as a function of genetic risk for schizophrenia,” 

Study sheds light on the causes of cerebral palsy

Maryam Oskoui

Maryam Oskoui

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common cause of physical disability in children. Every year 140 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy in Quebec.

It has historically been considered to be caused by factors such as birth asphyxia, stroke and infections in the developing brain of babies. In a new game-changing Canadian study, a research team from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) has uncovered strong evidence for genetic causes of cerebral palsy that turns experts’ understanding of the condition on its head.