News

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.

How the blood-brain barrier is maintained

Alexandre Prat

Alexandre Prat

A study on a protein that helps maintain the blood-brain barrier and ameliorated the effects of a multiple sclerosis-like disease in an animal model.

The brain is a privileged organ in the body. So vital to life, the brain is protected from alterations elsewhere in the body by a highly regulated gateway known as the blood-brain barrier, which allows only selected molecules to pass through.

Montréal discovery could impact the study of chronic pain conditions

Artur Kania

Artur Kania

Researchers at the IRCM led by Artur Kania, Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Université de Montréal, uncovered the critical role in pain processing of a gene associated with a rare disease. Their breakthrough, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, paves the way for a better understanding of chronic pain conditions.

Researchers halt brain swelling at the source

Brian MacVicar

Brian MacVicar

A team of researchers has made a significant discovery in the mechanism of brain swelling, paving the way to preventative treatment for severe to fatal brain damage following stroke, head injury or cardiac arrest. Their research, published today in Cell, paves the way for a preventative drug treatment for severe brain damage following stroke, infection, head injury or cardiac arrest.

Cancer drug shows promise for treating stroke

Craig Brown

Craig Brown

A drug used to treat cancer may be a useful tool for improving recovery from a stroke in certain patient populations, a University of Victoria researcher has found.

“A big challenge in treating stroke is understanding how other health conditions affect recovery,” says Craig Brown, a neuroscientist in UVic’s Division of Medical Sciences “Many diseases increase the chances of having a stroke, and they also limit recovery. Diabetes is one of these diseases, affecting millions in Canada. Much like a five-card poker hand, the unique collection of health concerns a patient holds in their hand likely dictates how they should be treated.”

Smoking thins vital part of brain

Dr. Sherif Karama

Dr. Sherif Karama

Years ago, children were warned that smoking could stunt their growth, but now a major study by an international team including the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University and the University of Edinburgh shows new evidence that long-term smoking could cause thinning of the brain’s cortex.

Revolutionary new probe zooms in on cancer cells

Kevin Petrecca

Kevin Petrecca

Brain cancer patients may live longer thanks to a new cancer-detection method developed by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, at McGill University and the MUHC, and Polytechnique Montréal. The collaborative team has created a powerful new intraoperative probe for detecting cancer cells.

HBI researchers find new therapy dramatically benefits stroke patients

Michael Hill

Dr. Michael Hill

Canadian researchers have completed an international randomized controlled trial showing that a clot retrieval procedure, known as endovascular treatment (ET), can dramatically improve patient outcomes after an acute ischemic stroke. The study, led by researchers at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), shows a dramatic improvement in outcomes and a reduction in deaths from stroke. The results of this study were published in the Feb. 11 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Psychopathic violent offenders’ brains can’t understand punishment

Sheilagh Hodgins

Sheilagh Hodgins

Psychopathic violent offenders have abnormalities in the parts of the brain related to learning from punishment, according to an MRI study led by Sheilagh Hodgins and Nigel Blackwood. “One in five violent offenders is a psychopath. They have higher rates of recidivism and don’t benefit from rehabilitation programmes. Our research reveals why this is and can hopefully improve childhood interventions to prevent violence and behavioural therapies to reduce recidivism,” explained Professor Hodgins of the University of Montreal and Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal.