News

CAMH discovery of novel drug target may lead to better treatment for schizophrenia

Dr. Fang Liu

Dr. Fang Liu

Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have identified a novel drug target that could lead to the development of better antipsychotic medications.

Dr. Fang Liu, senior scientist in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute and professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and her team published their results online in the journal Neuron.

Multiplexing through dendritic gap junctions

Stuart Trenholm

Stuart Trenholm

How neurons communicate with each other is central to our understanding of the nervous system. Since the times of Golgi and Cajal, the roles of electrical vs. chemical forms of transmission have been much debated. While it is now well established that both electrical and chemical forms of transmission co-exist throughout the mammalian nervous system, gap junction-mediated electrical signals are found to be extremely weak compared to their chemical counterparts

Fragile X study offers hope of new autism treatment

Nahum Sonenberg

Dr. Nahum Sonenberg

People affected by a common inherited form of autism could be helped by a drug that is being tested as a treatment for cancer, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh and McGill University.

Fragile X Syndrome is the most common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorders. It affects around 1 in 4,000 boys and 1 in 6,000 girls. Currently, there is no cure.

Finding “lost” languages in the brain

Denise Klein

Denise Klein

Study has far-reaching implications for unconscious role of infant experiences on adult development
An infant’s mother tongue creates neural patterns that the unconscious brain retains years later even if the child totally stops using the language, (as can happen in cases of international adoption) according to a new joint study by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro and McGill University’s Department of Psychology. The study offers the first neural evidence that traces of the “lost” language remain in the brain.

Total recall: the science behind it

Keith Murai

Keith Murai

MUHC-led study identifies new player in brain function and memory

Is it possible to change the amount of information the brain can store? Maybe, according to a new international study led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). Their research has identified a molecule that puts a brake on brain processing and when removed, brain function and memory recall is improved. Published in the latest issue of Cell Reports

Diversity among vesicles supports multilingualism in axons

Evstratova, Tóth, Chamberland

Evstratova, Tóth, Chamberland

Information is transferred from one neuron to another via synapses. This communication is mediated by neurotransmitters packaged into vesicles. These structures seem identical on electron microscopic images. However, recordings of electrical activity between neurons show that synapses operate under multiple modes of neurotransmitter release depending on the level of activity.

Communication pathway discovered between brain neurons and immune cells

Lasse Dissing-Olesen - MacVicar Lab

Lasse Dissing-Olesen, MacVicar Lab

Findings contribute to baseline knowledge of minute-to-minute healthy brain activity.

Examining the brain when it is healthy is essential in order to understand how and why things go wrong when they do. Interested in the brain in its healthy state, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute investigators from the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health’s (DMCBH) Dr. Brian MacVicar Lab asked novel research questions about communication between the brain’s neurons and microglia, its immune cells.

A discovery could prevent the development of brain tumours in children

Frédéric Charron

Frédéric Charron

Frédéric Charron, CAN 2012 Young Investigator, publishes in Developmental Cell.
Researchers at the IRCM show that a protein called Sonic Hedgehog causes DNA damage – They discovered a mechanism that promotes the progression of medulloblastoma, the most common brain tumour found in children.

New Western neuroscientist explores “touchy” subject

Andrew Pruszynski

Andrew Pruszynski

When you reach into your pocket, you can easily tell a button from a coin. Solving this seemingly simple problem is actually amazingly complicated. The long-held scientific explanation is that neurons in the cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain reserved for the most complicated functions, make the differentiation but recent findings

Chemical signals in the brain help guide risky decisions

Stan Floresco

Stan Floresco

Dopamine plays a key role in decisions involving risk and reward, says UBC’s Stan Floresco.

A gambler’s decision to stay or fold in a game of cards could be influenced by a chemical in the brain, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia.

Researchers unlock new mechanism in pain management

Gerald Zamponi

Gerald Zamponi

It’s in the brain where we perceive the unpleasant sensations of pain, and researchers have long been examining how calcium channels in the brain and peripheral nervous system contribute to the development of chronic pain conditions.

Inflammation after nervous system injury worsens damage and functional loss

Samuel David

Samuel David

In a new study published 2 September 2014 in the scientific journal Neuron, Sam David and his team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Heath Centre shed light on why inflammation after nervous system injury, such as spinal cord trauma, worsens damage and functional loss. Sam David says that “a cytokine called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and iron from red blood cells that are phagocytosed by macrophages favours a prolonged shift to harmful pro-inflammatory type of macrophage that is detrimental to recovery.”

Memory and Alzheimer’s : towards a better comprehension of the dynamic mechanisms

Sylvain Williams

Sylvain Williams

Research by Dr. Sylvain Williams shows that the flow of activity in the hippocampus, a brain region essential for memory, is actually bidirectional, rather than just unidirectional

A study just published in the prestigious Nature Neuroscience journal by Sylvain Williams, PhD, and his team, of the Research Centre of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University, opens the door towards better understanding of the neural circuitry and dynamic mechanisms controlling memory as well of the role of an essential element of the hippocampus – a sub-region named the subiculum.

U of T research helps explain why elderly are prone to sleep problems

Andrew Lim

Andrew Lim

New research led by University of Toronto neurologist Andrew Lim sheds light on sleep disruption in aging adults.

“In many older people with insomnia and other patterns of sleep disruption, the underlying cause is unknown,” said Lim, assistant professor of neurology and neuroscientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences.

“We provide evidence that loss of neurons in a particular region of the brain that controls sleep may be an important contributor to insomnia in many older individuals.”

ADHD, substance abuse and conduct disorder develop from the same neurocognitive deficits

Patricia Conrod

Dr. Patricia Conrod

Study suggests ways to treat these deficits before the psychiatric symptoms develop

Researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre have traced the origins of ADHD, substance abuse and conduct disorder, and found that they develop from the same neurocognitive deficits, which in turn explains why they often occur together. “Psychopathology exists on multiple continua of brain function. Some of these dimensions contribute to a multitude of problems, others contribute to specific problems. Together, they explain patterns of comorbidity such as why ADHD and conduct problems co-occur with substance misuse at such a high rate,” explained the study’s lead author, Professor Patricia Conrod.

Important advance in brain mapping and memory

Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo

Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo

Discovery sheds light on where visual memories are born

“When a tiger starts to move towards you, you need to know whether it is something you are actually seeing or whether it’s just something that you remember or have imagined,” says Prof. Julio Martinez-Trujillo of McGill’s Department of Physiology. The researcher and his team have discovered that there is a clear frontier in the brain between the area that encodes information about what is immediately before the eyes and the area that encodes the abstract representations that are the product of our short-term memory or imagination.

Scientists uncover another clue to how and where memory is formed

Dr. Sheena Josselyn

Dr. Sheena Josselyn

Findings suggest a brain cell’s activity helps determine whether it will hold a subsequent memory

Understanding how and where memories are normally stored in the brain will be the key to developing new treatments for memory disorders. Memories are thought to be created through the strengthening of connections between brain cells (neurons) to form a memory. In a new study led by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), researchers have discovered one important factor that determines which precise neurons are selected to store a given memory and where this memory is stored. The study is published in the August 6 online edition of Neuron.

International team sheds new light on biology underlying schizophrenia

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Genes, pathways identified could inform new approaches to treatment

As part of a multinational, collaborative effort, researchers from Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have helped identify over 100 locations in the human genome associated with the risk of developing schizophrenia, in what is the largest genomic study published on any psychiatric disorder to date. The findings, published online in Nature, point to biological mechanisms and pathways that may underlie schizophrenia, and could lead to new approaches to treating the disorder, which has seen little innovation in drug development in more than 60 years.

A weighty discovery

Randy Flanagan

Randall Flanagan

Humans have developed sophisticated concepts like mass and gravity to explain a wide range of everyday phenomena, but scientists have remarkably little understanding of how such concepts are represented by the brain.

Using advanced neuroimaging techniques, Queen’s University researchers have revealed how the brain stores knowledge about an object’s weight – information critical to our ability to successfully grasp and interact with objects in our environment.