News

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.

Brief postnatal blindness triggers long-lasting reorganization in the brain

Olivier Collignon

Olivier Collignon

A brief period of postnatal visual deprivation, when early in life, drives a rewiring of the brain areas involved in visual processing, even if the visual restoration is completed well before the baby reaches one year of age, researchers at the University of Trento, McMaster University, and the University of Montreal revealed today in Current Biology.

Association between low vitamin D and MS

Brent Richards

Brent Richards

Having low levels of vitamin D doubles the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, an association that researchers conclude supports a causal relationship.
Low levels of vitamin D significantly increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study led by Dr. Brent Richards of the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, and published in PLOS Medicine.

Why we’re smarter than chickens

Benjamin Blencowe

Benjamin Blencowe

Researchers at U of T’s Donnelly Centre uncover protein part that controls neuron development.U of T researchers have discovered that a single molecular event in our cells could hold the key to how we evolved to become the smartest creatures on the planet.

Professor Benjamin Blencowe and his team at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research have determined that a small change in a protein called PTBP1 spurred the creation of neurons and fuelled the evolution of mammalian brains to become the largest and most complex among vertebrates.

Scientists identify key gene associated with addiction

Salah El-Mestikawy

Salah El-Mestikawy

A new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry by a team led by Salah El Mestikawy, Ph.D., researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’île-de-Montréal), professor at McGill University and head of research at CNRS INSERM UPMC in Paris, opens the field to new understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying addiction in humans.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect (depending on your brain)

Dr. Robert Zatorre

Dr. Robert Zatorre

Study fuels nature versus nurture debate
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? New research on the brain’s capacity to learn suggests there’s more to it than the adage that “practise makes perfect.” A music-training study by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -The Neuro, at McGill University and colleagues in Germany found evidence to distinguish the parts of the brain that account for individual talent from the parts that are activated through training.

This is your brain on fried eggs

Stephanie Fulton

Stephanie Fulton

High-fat feeding can cause impairments in the functioning of the mesolimbic dopamine system, says Stephanie Fulton of the University of Montreal and the CHUM Research Centre (CRCHUM.) This system is a critical brain pathway controlling motivation. Fulton’s findings, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, may have great health implications.

His and hers pain circuitry in the spinal cord

Mike Salter

Mike Salter

Jeffrey Mogil

Jeffrey Mogil

New animal research reveals fundamental sex differences in how pain is processed.
New research released today in Nature Neuroscience reveals for the first time that pain is processed in male and female mice using different cells. These findings have far-reaching implications for our basic understanding of pain, how we develop the next generation of medications for chronic pain—which is by far the most prevalent human health condition—and the way we execute basic biomedical research using mice.

New Treatment Hope for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Alex Parker

Alex Parker

A previously unknown link between the immune system and the death of motor neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has been discovered by scientists at the CHUM Research Centre and the University of Montreal. The finding paves the way to a whole new approach for finding a drug that can cure or at least slow the progression of such neurodegenerative diseases as ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

Blood to feeling: McMaster scientists turn blood into neural cells

Bhatia and Singh

Bhatia and Singh

Scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make adult sensory neurons from human patients simply by having them roll up their sleeve and providing a blood sample.

Specifically, stem cell scientists at McMaster can now directly convert adult human blood cells to both central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) neurons as well as neurons in the peripheral nervous system (rest of the body) that are responsible for pain, temperature and itch perception. This means that how a person’s nervous system cells react and respond to stimuli, can be determined from his blood.

Study on cerebral astrocytes in depression and suicide

Naguib Mechawar

Naguib Mechawar

Towards a better understanding of the mechanisms of depression

A new study published by the team of Naguib Mechawar, Ph.D., a researcher with the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS) of the Douglas Institute (CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île de Montréal) and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, sheds new light on the disruption of astrocytes in depression. Astrocytes, a class of non-neuronal cells, have previously been implicated in depression and suicide. However, it was not known whether these cells were affected throughout the brain or only in certain regions.

Researchers get a closer look at how the Huntington’s gene works

Blair Leavitt

Blair Leavitt

Huntington’s disease is caused by a mutation in the Huntington’s disease gene, but it has long been a mystery why some people with the exact same mutation get the disease more severely and earlier than others. A closer look at the DNA around the Huntington’s disease (HD) gene offers researchers a new understanding of how the gene is controlled and how this affects the disease. These findings set the stage for new treatments to delay or prevent the onset of this devastating brain disease.

How your brain reacts to emotional information is influenced by your genes

Rebecca Todd

Rebecca Todd

Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to new research by a UBC neuroscientist. The study, recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.

Every bite you take, every move you make, astrocytes will be watching you

Arlette Kolta

Arlette Kolta

Chewing, breathing, and other regular bodily functions that we undertake “without thinking” actually do require the involvement of our brain, but the question of how the brain programs such regular functions intrigues scientists. A team lead by Arlette Kolta, a professor at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Dentistry, has shown that astrocytes play a key role.