RI-MUHC and McGill researchers make a breakthrough in understanding brain nanoarchitecture, using computer vision

image credit RI-MUHC

A new study published in Current Biology reveals the nanostructure of brain cells at an unprecedented level of resolution


Brain cells are among the most anatomically complex cells in the human body. They create an intricate web of connections that enables the brain to detect, process, encode and respond to diverse information. Importantly, communication breakdown between brain cells leads to disorders and diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that affects an estimated 50 million people worldwide. Continue reading

Krembil Brain Institute Scientist Carmela Tartaglia is finding ways to diagnose Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy before its too late

Brain MRI for diagnosis

Doctor check up x-ray film of the brain by mri or ct scan brain at patient room hospital. medical concept.

Traumatic brain injuries are considered to be an invisible condition. We can’t often see the effects and 50% of patients experience personality change, irritability, anxiety, and depression after concussion. Repeat traumatic brain injuries may increase your risk for a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Dr. Carmela Tartaglia’s research looks to identify diagnostic tools to predict if an individual could develop CTE after sustaining repeat head injuries. Dr. Tartaglia’s team is looking at implementing tools that target a protein called Tau, which is known to be elevated in CTE. In combination with other tests and screening methods, the hope is to be able to predict the progression of CTE, while implementing therapeutic strategies early on in the disease. Continue reading

Saving more stroke patients

Man with heavy headache or brain stroke - conceptual artwork - 3d illustration - Gray scale Image

Man with heavy headache or brain stroke – conceptual artwork – 3d illustration – Gray scale Image

Approximately 20,000 Quebecers suffer a cerebrovascular accident every year. Nearly 90% are caused by a blood clot that blocks the brain’s blood vessels and, by the same token, its supply of oxygen and nutrients. Deprived of oxygen, some 1.9 million nerve cells die every minute following a stroke.

While no treatment can restore brain function, there is a therapeutic approach that helps limit the damage. It involves injecting a thrombolytic agent that dissolves the clot and restores blood flow. It must be administered within 4.5 hours of the stroke, after which the risk of bleeding increases. But according to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec, 66% of stroke victims don’t arrive at the hospital in time to benefit from the medication. The result: close to 3,000 deaths annually and 130,000 people living with physical and psychological effects. Continue reading

Exoskeleton robot helps researchers shed new light on learning and stroke recovery

UCalgary clinical trial maps how we learn motor skills, and the results could be a game-changer for stroke rehabilitation.

This morning, you probably reached out of bed to turn off your alarm clock, and later brushed your teeth or buttoned a shirt. Those movements are routine; mundane, even. You are long past the point of wondering how you learned to do any of those things and don’t give a second thought to the complexity of what happened in your brain so that your arm could lift your cup of coffee. Continue reading

Discovery reveals blocking inflammation may lead to chronic pain

back pain

Sport man suffering from backache at park outdoors, Lower back pain concept

Findings may lead to reconsideration of how we treat acute pain

Using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain could increase the chances of developing chronic pain, according to researchers from McGill University and colleagues in Italy. Their research puts into question conventional practices used to alleviate pain. Normal recovery from a painful injury involves inflammation and blocking that inflammation with drugs could lead to harder-to-treat pain.

“For many decades it’s been standard medical practice to treat pain with anti-inflammatory drugs. But we found that this short-term fix could lead to longer-term problems,” says Jeffrey Mogil, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University and E. P. Taylor Chair in Pain Studies.

The difference between people who get better and don’t

In the study published in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers examined the mechanisms of pain in both humans and mice. They found that neutrophils – a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection – play a key role in resolving pain.

“In analyzing the genes of people suffering from lower back pain, we observed active changes in genes over time in people whose pain went away. Changes in the blood cells and their activity seemed to be the most important factor, especially in cells called neutrophils,” says Luda Diatchenko a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry, and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics.

Read the full story on the McGill University website

CIHR Health Research in Action: Better sleep may lead to a better fight against Alzheimer’s disease

Sleeping couple

Close-up of a senior African American couple sleeping together in bedroom at home

Research team at Université de Montréal offers insights that may help both detect and treat the disease among patients in the future


More than 750,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This complex neurodegenerative condition destroys brain cells and causes a gradual deterioration of memory and thinking.


A key feature of AD is the development of plaques composed of amyloid beta proteins inside the brain. Researchers at Université de Montréal are studying how fragments of these proteins initially affect neurons in the hippocampus, which blocks communication between neurons and disrupt sleep patterns.


This research could provide new ways to diagnose and monitor the progression of AD. It may also support the use of new interventions that help improve sleep as a treatment for the disease.

Read the full story on the CIHR website


Researcher and inventor Stephen Scott, from Queen’s University explores the impact of his robot, Kinarm, which is changing the way we understand the brain

U Calgary research talk screenshot

In a research 5 à 7 presented by Queen’s University, Dr. Stephen Scott, Professor and Incoming Vice Dean Research for Queen’s Health Sciences, presents his invention: Kinarm. Trained in systems designs engineering, and with a background in physiology, Dr. Scott has combined two areas of expertise into something incredible. Kinarm is used to assess neurological impairments related to stroke, MS, ALS, Transient Ischemic Attacks, Parkinson’s disease, kidney dialysis, and more.

Learn more about KinarmThe Human Performance Lab at the University of Calgary and the Neuro Robot Lab led by Dr. Sean Dukelow at the University of Calgary

Promising new treatment for ALS goes to clinical trials

Physiotherapist assisting a patient with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Physiotherapist assisting a patient with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

After 12 years of research, Dr. Richard Robitaille is hopeful that we’ll soon have a treatment to help people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) regain mobility.

A new clinical trial is set to start soon, thanks to a $1-million grant from the American ALS Association announced just before Christmas. “I’m still in shock! For me, this grant is recognition of years of hard work,” said Robitaille, a full professor in the Department of Neurosciences in the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine. “Now we will be able to run clinical trials on patients with ALS and ultimately use what we learn to help others suffering from the disease.”

Read the full story on the Université de Montréal website

UCalgary researchers use computer modelling to simulate impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain

SumaLateral Whole Brain Image - NIH image gallery

New way to model neural disease could lead to better understanding

Author: Shea Coburn, Hotchkiss Brain Institute

A deep neural network is a computerized brain-inspired machine learning model, which uses many layers of simulated neurons to mimic the function of the cerebral cortex. Each layer in the network creates more complex activity, which simulates the way information is processed in the human brain. These networks can be designed to replicate structures in the brain, allowing researchers and scientists to model specific brain functions more easily.

University of Calgary researchers have taken a new approach to using these networks for modelling of the human brain. Most studies, to date, have used deep neural networks to look at healthy brain function. These investigators wanted to know if these models could be applied to better understand brain function in a diseased brain. In this case, looking at posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), an atypical form of Alzheimer’s disease affecting the visual cortex.

“Using these artificial networks to model dementia could enable an improved understanding of the disease,” says Dr. Nils Forkert, PhD, an associate professor in the Cumming School of Medicine and principal investigator. “It allows us to have one well-established reference model that can be damaged in many different ways versus having to image hundreds of patients with different neurodegeneration patterns to obtain similar information.”

In the findings published in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Forkert, along with Dr. Anup Tuladhar, PhD, Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, MD, and PhD student Jasmine A. Moore used a standard neural network for automatic object recognition in images, titled VGG19, to simulate a brain with dementia symptoms. The researchers progressively damaged connections between neurons in the network, to mimic neurodegeneration in the visual system of the human brain.

Read the full story on the University of Calgary website

U of T research linking music to brain function could lead to promising therapies: CNN

Listening to music

Live and let live

A University of Toronto and Unity Health Toronto study found that listening to songs with special meaning for the listener improves brain function in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, CNN reported.

Senior author Michael Thaut, director of U of T’s Music and Health Science Research Collaboratory and a professor in the Faculty of Music and Temerty Faculty of Medicine, told the U.S. news outlet that “listening to music with special meaning stimulated neural pathways in the brain that helped them maintain higher levels of functioning.”

“Whether you’re a lifelong musician or have never even played an instrument, music is an access key to your memory, your pre-frontal cortex,” said Thaut in a statement to CNN. “It’s simple — keep listening to the music that you’ve loved all your life. Your all-time favourite songs, those pieces that are especially meaningful to you – make that your brain gym.”

The research – published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in November 2021 – could lead to promising music therapies for patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

Read more at CNN

Read more at U of T News