Caroline Ménard wins the 2024 CAN New Investigator Award for groundbreaking research on stress vulnerability and resilience.

Caroline MénardThe Canadian Association for Neuroscience is very proud to announce that Dr. Caroline Ménard from Université Laval is the winner of the 2024 CAN New Investigator Award. Her innovative research program is shedding light on the biological mechanisms underlying vulnerability and resilience to stress, with the help of state-of-the-art photonic technology and with the aim of developing pioneer strategies to treat or prevent depression.

Dr. Ménard joined Université Laval and the CERVO Brain Research Center in 2018 and has established herself as a leader in the field and community. Her research program is characterized by its originality, as it focuses on the effects of stress exposure on the blood-brain barrier, but also on the immune system, the gut barrier and its microbiome. Her work has not only identified unforeseen risk mechanisms for mood and stress-related disorders but also introduced measurable biomarkers of mental illnesses, a critical step towards detection of disease vulnerability and monitoring responses to treatment. These discoveries represent a paradigm shift in psychiatry, which to date almost entirely rely on diagnostics based on patient reports to health care workers. 

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are key elements of her research program as her group aims to identify sex- and gender-specific biomarkers of stress and mood disorders, along with preventive and new therapeutic approaches to guide diagnosis and inform personalized treatments. Dr. Ménard was recruited via a Sentinel North Research Chair, sponsored by Canada First Research Excellence Fund, whose mission includes training the next generation of researchers to address complex challenges in the changing North. She has established many transdisciplinary collaborations to advance the study of individual differences in response to stress exposure in relation to gender, environmental conditions and adversities. As such, her research has an important focus on various populations.

Since launching her independent academic career, Dr. Ménard’s laboratory has published in highly prestigious journals including Immunity, Nature Communications, PNAS, Neuron, Trends in Neuroscience, Biological Psychiatry, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Journal of Clinical Investigation, etc. The discoveries have been transformative as they identified novel barrier-related mechanisms underlying stress resilience vs susceptibility but also predictive blood biomarkers of disease vulnerability, paving the way to precision medicine by highlighting sex differences in the signature of brain disorders.

The impact of her work has been further highlighted by an impressive number of accolades (over 30) that she has received including the 2020 Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology Young Investigator Award, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (USA) 2020 Top 10 Leading Research Achievements, and twice the Top 10 Discoveries of the year by Quebec Science. Dr. Ménard’s international recognition is reflected by the extraordinary number of lectures she has delivered worldwide (>100) since her initial appointment. To add to this, she is an excellent ambassador of science to the public, with over 100 media appearances in her career.

Dr. Ménard’s leadership and remarkable ability to build bridges are key to advancing the field of neuroscience and mental health. She has demonstrated leadership through her ability to secure highly competitive research funds from CIHR, NSERC, FRQS, and the highly competitive New Frontiers in Research Fund that calls for distinctly creative trans-disciplinary projects. She was selected by the Brain Canada Foundation as Future Leader in Canadian Brain Research in 2019. She was also successful in securing international grants such as from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. She is involved in the organization of prestigious international meetings testimony of her leadership skills and recognized multidisciplinary expertise in the neuroscience, stress and brain barriers fields.

Dr. Ménard shows incredible dedication to promote her trainees, peers and to serve the community. In the past six years she has built an outstanding team of young scientists from all over the world and various academic backgrounds (ex. neuroscience, psychology, medicine, biomedical sciences, microbiology, biochemistry, and biophotonics). Since opening her lab, she has mentored 45 students and postdocs with several now in Faculty, hospital, or industry positions. She has been actively engaged in multiple committees at Université Laval and CERVO (NeuroQuebec, EDI, etc.) and leads the Early and Mid Career Researcher Cluster of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy ( since 2020. Her leadership in this position has been key to engaging young researchers in the initiative, which is of paramount importance given their key role in shaping the future of our field in Canada.

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is delighted to recognize the accomplishments of Dr. Ménard by awarding her the CAN 2024 New Investigator Award. 


Five most significant scientific publications 

Dudek, K, Dion-Albert, L, Lebel, M, LeClair, K, Labrecque, S, Tuck, E, Ferrer Perez, C, Golden, SA, Tamminga, C, Turecki, G, Mechawar, N, Russo, SJ, Menard, C (2020) Molecular adaptations of the blood-brain barrier promote stress resilience or depression, PNAS, 117(6), 3326-3336 

Dion-Albert, L, Cadoret, A, Doney, E, Kaufmann, FN, Dudek, K, Parise, LF, Cathomas, F, Daigle, B, Samba, N, Hudson, N, Lebel, M, Signature Consortium, Campbell, M, Turecki, G, Mechawar, N, Menard, C (2022) Vascular and blood-brain barrier-related changes underlie stress responses and resilience in female mice and depression in human tissue, Nature Communications, 13, 164

Dudek, K*, Dion-Albert, L*, Kaufmann, FN, Lebel, M, Menard, C (2021) Neurobiology of resilience in depression: immune and vascular insights from human and animal studies, European Journal of Neuroscience, 53(1), 1386-1393. 

Dion-Albert, L*, Dudek, K*, Russo SJ, Campbell M, Menard, C (2023) Neurovascular adaptations modulating cognition, mood, and stress responses, Trends in Neurosciences, 46(4), P276-292.

Menard, C, Siddiqui, TJ, Sargin, D, Lawson, A, De Koninck, Y, Illes J (2022) The Canadian Brain Research Strategy: A Focus on Early Career Researchers, Can J Neurol Sci., 49(2), 168-170.


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