CAN news

Identification of a brain region involved in controlling pupil dilatation to optimize vision

Doug Munoz

Doug Munoz

New research by Chin-An Wang and Douglas Munoz, at Queen’s University, shows that a brain region called the intermediate superior colliculus (SCi) helps regulate the size of the pupil to optimize visual sensitivity and sharpness. Interestingly, brain processing of an object begins even before one shifts their gaze towards the object.  This research shows that the size of the pupil is adjusted to the light level of the target, independent of the general light level, before the movement of the eyes towards this target. 

The power of multidisciplinary collaboration: A sculptor’s exploration of the brain

Read about a multidisciplinary collaboration between neuroscientists and artists, developed through The Convergence Initiative.  Founded in 2016 by neuroscientist and graphic designer Dr. Cristian Zaelzer, the Convergence – Perceptions of Neuroscience initiative is a partnership with the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience Program (BRaIN) of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Faculty of Fine Arts of Concordia University (FoFA), and the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN/ACN). This partnership has been continuously supported by the RI-MUHC, the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, McGill University Integrative Program in Neurosciences (IPN), and the Visual Voice Gallery.

Dr. Keith Murai, BRaIN program director, thinks the science vs. humanities dichotomy is a false one.

Diabetes drugs show promise to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Discovery of a pathway linking Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 Diabetes leads to new strategies to preserve brain health.

Fernanda De Felice at Queen’s University has discovered a disease mechanism common to Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 Diabetes.  This mechanism, which consist of a pathway leading to inflammation in different parts of the brain, leads to glucose intolerance, memory impairments and degeneration of the connections between neurons, called synapses.  This discovery can lead the way to new therapies to preserve brain health.  These results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 16th, 2018.

Stroke: Researchers shed light on the brain recovery process and new treatment strategies.

Researchers at UBC show that two types of cells, astrocytes and pericytes, cooperate to regenerate cerebral blood vessels to restore blood flow in brain regions damaged by stroke.

Stroke is one of three leading causes of death in Canada and leads to permanent disability in about half of survivors.  During an ischemic stroke, there is a blockage of blood flow which results in cell death in a specific area or the brain.  Dr. Brian MacVicar and Dr. Louis-Philippe Bernier at the University of British Columbia has recently discovered how two types of cells, called astrocytes and pericytes, work together to regenerate blood flow in the areas affected by these strokes (called ischemic areas).  These results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 16th, 2018.

An energy dense diet changes the brain and increases urge to eat

Rats eating a “cafeteria-diet” show changes in the brain regions that integrate information about food and determines eating behaviour.

Research by Stephanie Borgland at the University of Calgary shows that giving rats unrestricted access to unhealthy foods for extended periods not only leads to obesity, but also to brain changes that makes food more attractive to them, even when their hunger should be satisfied.  Specifically, Dr. Borgland’s research identified modifications in endocannabinoid signalling in a brain region called the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of these obese rats. These unpublished results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 15th, 2018.

Child abuse has lasting effects in brain region regulating mood and emotions

Cellular and molecular modifications in the brain of child abuse victims could explain their increased vulnerability to stress-related psychiatric disorders, including depression and suicide

Psychiatrists have long known that child abuse increases a person’s lifetime risk of psychiatric illness, including depression and suicide. New research by Naguib Mechawar and Gustavo Turecki from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies offers some explanation of the process through which abuse lastingly modifies brain wiring. Their research, which compare the brains of depressed suicides with or without a history of severe child abuse, and of healthy controls, identified important modifications in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC), a brain region critical for the regulation of moods and emotions. These findings were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 14th, 2018.

12th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting

The meeting will gather neuroscientists from Canada and around the world to share their research on the brain and nervous system. All areas of neuroscience research will be presented

Canadian Researchers Reveal How Certain Chronic Diseases Can Worsen The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis

Ruth Ann Marrie

Ruth Ann Marrie

Multiple Sclerosis is known as a progressive disease in which symptoms worsen over time. But for some 85% of those who suffer, the first stages of the illness come in waves. The individual may feel perfectly well some days while others are marked with worsening or new symptoms.

Officially this condition is known as relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) and it is the focus of a large Canadian conglomerate known as the CIHR Team in Epidemiology and Impact of Comorbidity on Multiple Sclerosis, or ECoMS. As the name implies, the group aims to determine how co-existing chronic diseases – comorbidities – affect those suffering with MS. Last week, representatives of the team, headed by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie at the University of Manitoba and Director of Manitoba’s MS Clinic at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, revealed their findings in the journal, Neurology.

Researchers at SickKids identify an anti-cancer drug as a candidate to inhibit the degeneration of neurons.

Dr. David Kaplan

Dr. David Kaplan

Nerve injuries and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and glaucoma share some characteristics, one of which is the degeneration of a part of neurons called the axon.  Axons are long extensions that branch out of the cell body to allow neurons to connect to other cells, including other neurons, to transmit signals.   A team led by SickKids scientist David Kaplan with Freda Miller and their trainees Konstantin Feinberg and Adelaida Kolaj has recently identified a drug, called fortetinib, that protects axons from degeneration in multiple conditions. It may turn out to be a clinically useful therapeutic drug.

University of British Columbia Researchers Take A Closer Look At The Potential For Stem Cell Therapy After Spinal Cord Injury

Journal of Neuroscience cover

Injury of the spinal cord is a traumatic and life-changing event that affects over three million people worldwide. Over the last decade, researchers have been examining ways to help repair injured individuals through the use of stem cell transplantation. Significant progress has been made in this area yet many unanswered questions remain. For the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff at the University of British Columbia, these gaps need to be filled to ensure successful treatments in the future.

For Neil who is living with dystonia, fundamental research offers hope and partial relief.

Neil Merovitch is an impressive and resilient young man who has very personal reasons to believe in the importance of fundamental research.  At a young age, he was diagnosed with dystonia, a devastating disease in which normal movement is impaired due to neurological dysfunction. Individuals with this condition deal with sustained or repetitive, and often painful, muscle contractions.

Yet from the moment you meet Neil, his passion for fundamental research is clear. “I’ve always been interested in research,” he says. “It’s fascinating for me to explore the link between brain and behaviour each and every day.”  And dystonia does not prevent him from pursuing his goal, which is to obtain a PhD in neuroscience and physiology from the University of Toronto.

Budget 2018 : Large new investments to support Canada’s researchers

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience applauds the announcement by the Canadian government of important new financial support for Investigator-led fundamental research.  This budget makes significant strides towards the implementation of the recommendations of the Fundamental Science Review, commissioned by the honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, and is good news for scientists across the country, and all Canadians. 

Sick Kids Researchers Have Found An Unexpected Twist in How Our Brains Develop

One example of the latter recently came from the joint laboratory of Freda Miller and David Kaplan, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. They found that a type of cell known for transmitting information between nerve cells also plays another vital role. It instructs stem cells that build the brain to make another type of cell called an oligodendrocyte. This cell is crucial for making sure communication and information transmission in the brain happen at the right time in the right place. The results were published in the journal, Neuron, http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30344-6.

McGill Researchers Have Found A Possible Path For Treatment of Fragile X Syndrome

There is no denying autism spectrum disorders, commonly known as ASD, have become some of the world’s greatest health concerns. But what most people do not know is the incredible complexity of these conditions. As researchers have found, the problems are not singular in nature. Rather, they are a consequence of several changes in the way the cells of the brain function. This reality has forced ASD researchers to head deep into the molecular level of the brain in the hope of understanding what is happening in those affected.

Researchers at Dalhousie University Reveal A Startling Phenomenon in Evolution

Have you ever been startled by a sudden noise, sight or touch? It can be quite a shock to the system. You tense up, your mind blanks out all previous thoughts, and you find yourself preparing for the worst. Then there are the lingering effects that can last for minutes after it is all over. While you may hate the feeling of being startled, neuroscience researchers have found the entire process is a natural part of life inherited in evolution from our ancient ancestors.

McGill Researchers Have Found A Fungal Toxin May One Day Repair Damage To The Central Nervous System

Injuries are a part of life. In most cases, such as cuts, bruises, tears, and even broken bones, our bodies heal. But when damage occurs to the central nervous system – or as most people call it, CNS – the outlook can be heartbreaking. The cells in this area, known as neurons, simply are not good at regeneration. This is why damage to the spinal cord and retina is considered a dire ailment.

Two CAN Young Investigator Awards in 2017: Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, from Université de Montréal, and Tuan Trang, from University of Calgary.

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to announce it will be awarding two Young Investigator Awards in 2017.  The laureates are Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, from Université de Montréal, and Tuan Trang, from University of Calgary.  The CAN nominations committee was equally impressed with both candidates, who have made important contributions to our understanding of the brain and the nervous system in the early stages of their careers.  Both winners have developed a strong program of basic, curiosity-driven research that have led to discoveries that can be used to improve the lives of Canadians.

University of British Columbia Researchers Have Found A Way To Block The High of Cocaine

“If you got that lose, you want to kick them blues, cocaine
When your day is done, and you want to ride on cocaine
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie
Cocaine.”

-Eric Clapton

Despite its illegal status, cocaine remains one of the staples of social drug use. The stimulating effect of the chemical has been glamorized in modern-day culture and continues to be lauded as a means to artificially keep the mind active. Yet, as anyone who has tried this high can tell, the side effects are far less delightful. They include memory loss, increase heart rate, insomnia, and almost instantaneous addiction.

Science as a uniting global force: A statement by the Canadian Association for Neuroscience

Recent events at home and abroad foreshadow a more divided and closed world.  As such, the Canadian Association for Neuroscience wants to state their position that science can and must remain a builder of bridges between the peoples of all nations, regardless of differences in political views, religious beliefs or country of origin. Scientists around the world share a desire to advance knowledge in ways that benefit all humans.

University of Toronto Researchers May Have Found The Reason Loneliness Leads To Depression

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
-Mother Teresa

At one time or another, everyone experiences moments of social isolation, when there is no one around and the world is confined to one’s own existence. In short bursts these moments of solitude can be therapeutic and may lead to moments of emotional regeneration or creativity. Yet when loneliness becomes chronic, the effects may be deleterious to one’s emotional health.