News

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.

That’s using your head

Jessica Yue

Jessica Yue

Recent research into brain control of liver lipid production could cause break in obesity and diabetes treatment.

Ways of keeping the heart healthy has widened, with the discovery that the brain can help fight off hardening of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis—hardening and narrowing of the arteries—can be caused by fat build up that causes plaque deposits, and is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease.

Largest genome sequencing study finds surprises: siblings’ autism may have different genetic causes

Stephen Scherer

Stephen Scherer

A new study led by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) turns scientific prediction on its head. Contrary to what was expected, researchers found that siblings with autism spectrum disorder often carry very different genetic mutations.

This study, published in the Jan. 26 online edition of Nature Medicine, is the largest whole genome sequencing study in autism and one of the largest on any disorder to date.

Genetic discovery about childhood blindness

Robert Koenekoop

Robert Koenekoop

Dr. Robert Koenekoop, director of the McGill Ocular Genetics Laboratory at The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC, co-led this research.
Finding genes for retinal degenerations has immediate benefits for people living with blindness and vision loss, their families, and their physicians. Establishing a genetic cause confirms the clinical diagnosis at the molecular level, helps predict the future visual prognosis, suggests therapies, and allows some patients to join clinical trials. While more than 200 genes for retinal degenerations have been identified, approximately 40-50% of cases remain a mystery.

Examining links between anxiety and chronic pain

Min Zhuo

Min Zhuo

Min Zhuo is a professor in the department of physiology at U of T and the Canada Research Chair in Pain and Cognition. Zhuo and his lab recently published a paper in the journal Neuron that showed how neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to physically re-organize itself in response to experience – can spur the interplay between chronic pain and anxiety. They also showed that a drug they developed for chronic pain can limit anxiety.

Blame it on your brain: salt and hypertension

Charles Bourque

Charles Bourque

Study sheds new light on link between salt intake and blood pressure

An international research team led by scientists at McGill University has found that excessive salt intake “reprograms” the brain, interfering with a natural safety mechanism that normally prevents the body’s arterial blood pressure from rising.

York U researchers discover how midbrain map continuously updates visuospatial memory

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

On the upcoming Super Bowl Sunday, a lot of us will be playing arm-chair quarterback. After the snap, we might use our eyes to track a wide receiver as he runs toward an opening, all the while remembering the location of the star running back in case he breaks through on a rushing play. This natural ability to track one moving player but be ready to quickly look back toward another one sounds simple.

Research published in Neuron shows activity in neuron complex can predict attention

Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo

Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo

Humans and other primates have an extraordinary ability to voluntarily and efficiently focus attention on important information while ignoring distraction. For decades it has been hypothesized that this ability relies on the evolutionary expansion of the lateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain located in the lateral convexity of the frontal lobe, that reaches its highest level of complexity in primates.

U of Saskatchewan research reveals “major piece of the puzzle” in repairing nerves

Valerie Verge

Valerie Verge

A research team led by Valerie Verge at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has discovered an important molecular worker in the repair shop of the body’s nervous system, a finding that brings them a step closer to new treatments for debilitating nerve injuries.

The molecule in question is called Luman, a nerve cell (neuron) protein discovered by Vikram Misra in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine while investigating the common cold sore virus.