13th annual Canadian neuroscience meeting

Published on Eurekalert, April 15, 2019

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/cafn-1ac041519.php

The Scientific Program Committee, chaired by Paul Frankland and co-chair Ruth Slack, along with local chair Julie Lefebvre, have put together an exciting roster of scientific presentations, community building events and opportunities for networking and career development.

Scientific highlights of the 2019 meeting include plenary lectures by Michelle Monje, Jeffrey Mogil, Florian Engert, Robert Malenka and Guo-Li Ming. As usual, plenary symposia featuring prominent Canadian and international speakers, and the always diverse parallel symposia proposed by our members complete the CAN scientific program.

We warmly congratulate this year’s Young Investigator laureate, Dr. Blake Richards, from the University of Toronto at Scarsborough. Dr. Richards’ research explores the neural basis of deep learning. The goal of this work is to better understand the neurobiological basis of animal and human intelligence and provide new insights to help guide AI development. His laboratory has made several important contributions to mathematical models of learning and memory in the brain. Don’t miss the CAN Young Investigator award lecture to learn more about these exciting discoveries, on May 24th, 2019 at 5:30PM. https://can-acn.org/blake-richards-is-the-2019-can-young-investigator-awardee

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Dr. Richards will also host the CAN public lecture, on May 21 at 6:30PM which this year features a Canadian expert in Artificial Intelligence, Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, from the University of Toronto. This event will explore the use of artificial intelligence to understand how the brain computes. (https://can-acn.org/2019-public-lecture-geoffrey-hinton)

For news media only:

Press passes are available for accredited journalist to attend the Canadian Neuroscience Meeting. Please inquire on location at the registration desk.

Full program:

https://can-acn.org/2019-program

Public lecture, May 21 sith Geoffrey Hinton:

https://can-acn.org/2019-public-lecture-geoffrey-hinton

Blake Richards is the 2019 CAN Young Investigator awardee

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to announce that Dr. Blake Richards, from University of Toronto at Scarborough, is the winner of the 2019 CAN Young Investigator Award

Published on Eurekalert April 15, 2019

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/cafn-bri041519.php

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to announce that Dr. Blake Richards, from University of Toronto at Scarborough, is the winner of the 2019 CAN Young Investigator Award. This award recognizes his outstanding research achievements at the intersection of neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Dr. Richards will receive this prize on May 24, 2019 in Toronto, during the 13th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting.

“Dr. Blake Richards’ work provides an interdisciplinary perspective, mixing theory and experiments to a degree that is truly rare, despite its importance for moving neuroscience forward in the coming decades. […] I am confident that he will continue his upward trajectory and emerge as one of the world’s leaders in computational techniques for understanding the brain.”

Melanie A. Woodin
Professor, Department of Cell and System Biology
Vice-Dean, Interdivisional Partnerships – Faculty of Arts and Science
University of Toronto

Dr. Richards’ research program focuses on neural computation, learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). Using a combination of computational modelling and advanced neuroscience and brain imaging approaches, his lab is exploring the neural basis of deep learning. The goal of this work is to better understand the neurobiological basis of animal and human intelligence and provide new insights to help guide AI development.

His laboratory has made several important contributions to mathematical models of learning and memory in the brain. These have provided new insights on the process of memory consolidation, learning in the brain and by machines, and how brain structures permit deep learning in real brains. This theoretical work has been well-recognized in both the neuroscience and AI communities, and Dr. Richards is considered a leading researcher at this disciplinary intersection. AI is currently being revolutionized with brain-inspired mechanisms.

“Despite all the progress in AI, the real brain is still the most sophisticated learning device on Earth, and no AI can yet match the general-purpose intelligence of humans. At the same time, AI can help us to revolutionize our understanding of the brain, providing means for analyzing and interpreting previously uninterpretable aspects of the biological basis of intelligence. Dr. Richards is uniquely well poised to conduct research at the interface of neuroscience and AI, thanks to his background as both a computer scientist and an experimental neuroscientist. Very few researchers in this world possess his ability to speak the languages of both machine learning and neuroscience so fluently.”

Yoshua Bengio
Scientific Director of the Mila, Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute
Full Professor, Department of Computer Science and Operations Research,
Université de Montréal

“His program of research positions him between the disciplines of AI, neurophysiology and behavioral neuroscience. It is in these spaces – the gaps between traditional research disciplines – that there is enormous scientific opportunity. Blake ably straddles these multiples fields, and he is already exploiting the riches of such an advantageous position.”

Paul Frankland, Senior Scientist
Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neurobiology
Professor, Departments of Psychology, Physiology and Institute of Medical Science
University of Toronto

Dr. Richards has received several awards and recognitions for his contributions. In 2016 he was awarded a Google Faculty Research award for his research on memory and reinforcement learning; in 2017 he became a Fellow of the CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) Learning in Machines and Brains Program; in 2018 he received an Early Career Researcher Award from the Government of Ontario; and most recently he was nominated as a Faculty Affiliate to the Vector Institute for AI. These recognitions are in addition to the funding he has received for his research from several highly competitive sources, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Human Frontier Science Program, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and Google. Most recently, Dr. Richards was awarded one of 29 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs as part of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy.

In addition to his research contributions, Dr. Richards has been an active member of the neuroscience and AI communities. Together with Dr. Timothy Lillicrap from Google DeepMind, he organized a workshop on deep learning and neuroscience at the 2016 Computational and Systems Neuroscience Conference (COSYNE). He also co-organized a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Brain Symposium last year, which brought together neuroscientists and machine learning experts, and which has sparked several new, interdisciplinary collaborations in the Canadian research community. And, more recently, he helped to organize a breakout session on memory consolidation at the 2018 Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience Conference in Philadelphia. Finally, Dr. Richards is recognized, by all who have worked with him in a laboratory, as a natural leader who truly enjoys mentorship.

Dr. Richards has shared his discoveries outside the scientific community, through numerous interviews to the popular press (including The New York Times, The Independent, The BBC, and NPR), and speaking arrangements at public events such as Pint of Science and NeuroTechX. He is always engaging and easy to understand in his public appearances and can act as a great ambassador for research into the links between AI and neuroscience. He has graciously accepted to host the 2019 CAN Public lecture with Geoffrey Hinton on May 21, 2019 in Toronto.

Dr. Blake Richards is an exceptional young investigator, whose work seamlessly integrates advanced neuroscience, neuroimaging, computational and artificial intelligence approaches to advance our understanding of the brain, but also to contribute to the development of artificial intelligence. The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is very proud to name him the 2019 CAN Young Investigator.

Visit the Learning in Neural Circuits (LiNC) Laboratory website: linclab.org

Learn more on the 2019 CAN Young Investigator webpage: https://can-acn.org/blake-richards-is-the-2019-can-young-investigator-awardee

For news media only:

Press passes are available for accredited journalists to attend Dr. Blake Richard’s CAN Young Investigator lecture, May 24th at 5:30 PM at the Sheraton Toronto Centre Hotel. Inquire by email at info@can-acn.org or at the meeting registration desk.

Congratulations to Brain Prize winners Marie-Germaine Bousser, Hugues Chabriat, Anne Joutel and Elisabeth Tournier-Lasserve

Brain Prize winnersThe Brain Prize 2019: French neuroscientists honoured for outstanding research into small vessel strokes in the brain

Aiming for treatment they have spent more than 30 years describing, understanding and diagnosing the most common hereditary form of stroke, CADASIL. For this, the four French neuroscientists are now receiving the world’s most valuable prize for brain research – the Lundbeck Foundation Brain Prize, worth 1 million euros. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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

Continue reading