News

Call for nominations for the 2020 Brain Prize now open

The world’s largest brain research prize is Danish and is awarded by the Lundbeck Foundation. Each year, the Lundbeck Foundation awards 10 million DKK (approx. 1,3 million €) to one or more brain researchers who have had a ground-breaking impact on brain research. The prize and associated activities are at the very forefront of the Lundbeck Foundation’s ambitions to make Denmark the world’s leading brain research nation. The Brain Prize is an international prize and can be awarded to researchers from all over the world.

The GPS of neurons now better understood with an IRCM study published in Neuron

Frédéric Charron

Frédéric Charron

Our nerves consist of small cables responsible for circulating information to every part of our body, allowing us, for instance, to move. These cables are actually cells called neurons with long extensions named axons.

Frédéric Charron, a researcher at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) and a molecular biology professor at Université de Montréal, and his team have recently shed light on a system that tells our neurons how to build the delicate circuits of our nervous system. The discovery by this group of researchers, all from the IRCM, appeared in the prestigious journal Neuron. This work may one day contribute to the development of treatments for people with a spinal cord injury or a genetic disorder affecting their motor function.

How a small worm helped unravel a big mystery in rare disease – SickKids researchers discover the important role of zinc in CCM disease

Brent Derry

Brent Derry

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) is a rare disease that causes anomalies in tiny capillaries that transport blood throughout the brain. The disease manifests as irregularities that resemble raspberries, most often in the brain, that can lead to hemorrhage, stroke and seizures in afflicted individuals. The disease involves defects in one of three CCM genes (CCM1, CCM2, or CCM3) and affects nearly one in six thousand people. Currently, there is no clinically approved therapy to treat this disease; patients rely on invasive brain surgery for treatment, but some extreme forms cannot be treated surgically.

Discovery of mutations in ACTL6B gene offers insight into brain development

Carl Ernst

Carl Ernst

Québec siblings with rare orphan disease lead to discovery of rare genetic diseases

Mutations in a gene involved in brain development have led to the discovery of two new neurodevelopmental diseases by an international team led by researchers at McGill University and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center.

The first clues about the rare disorder arose after doctors were unable to diagnose why two siblings from Québec City were experiencing seizures and neurodevelopmental deficits. Desperate, the children’s family turned to Carl Ernst at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal for answers.

Canadian Artificial Intelligence pioneers win the 2019 Turing Award

Congratulations to Geoffrey Hinton (University of Toronto), Joshua Bengio (Université de Montréal) and Yann LeCun (Boston University) who have won the 2019 Turing award for their work to understand neural networks using artificial intelligence and deep learning.   The Turing Award is an annual prize given by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to an individual selected for contributions “of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field”.  The award is accompanied by a $1 million USD prize, to be shared by the three winners.

Read more on the Association for Computing Machinery website

Fathers of the Deep Learning Revolution Receive ACM A.M. Turing Award
Bengio, Hinton and LeCun Ushered in Major Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence

Geoffrey Hinton will be present at the CAN meeting on May 21, 2019, where he will present the CAN annual public lecture, which will be hosted by Blake Richards, from the University of Toronto. More here.

New molecules reverse memory loss linked to depression, aging

Etienne Sibille

Etienne Sibille

New therapeutic molecules developed at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) show promise in reversing the memory loss linked to depression and aging.

These molecules not only rapidly improve symptoms, but remarkably, also appear to renew the underlying brain impairments causing memory loss in preclinical models. These findings were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

“Currently there are no medications to treat cognitive symptoms such as memory loss that occur in depression, other mental illnesses and aging,” says Dr. Etienne Sibille, Deputy Director of the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH and lead scientist on the study.

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.

A new experimental therapy for ALS and fronto-temporal dementia

Jean-Pierre Julien’s team recently published an article in the high impact journal, the Journal of Clinical Investigations, about a new experimental therapy for ALS and frontotemporal dementia based on the use of antibodies that target the abnormal accumulation of a protein called TDP-43 in degenerating neurons. The formation of TDP-43 aggregates is associated with ALS development.

Spinal cords contribute to complex hand function

Andrew Pruszynski

We often think of our brains as the centre of complex motor function and control, but how ‘smart’ is your spinal cord? Turns out, it is smarter than we think.

Circuits which travel down the length of our spine control things like the pain reflex in humans and some motor-control functions in animals. Now, new research from Western has shown that the spinal cord is also able to process and control more complex functions, like the positioning of your hand in external space.

Brain scan series aid concussed rugby players

Ravi Menon

Ravi Menon

Researchers at Western have developed an objective way to monitor female athletes’ concussion injury, by using brain scans to study their brains over time.

By using a technique that combines both structural and functional MRI information, Western University researchers were able to identify three unique signatures – one that shows acute brain changes after an athlete has suffered a concussion, another that can identify persistent brain changes six months after the concussion and a third that shows evidence of concussion history.

Hormone could slow Alzheimer’s progression

Fernanda De Felice

Fernanda De Felice

Queen’s University researcher discovers potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Queen’s University researcher Fernanda De Felice (Psychiatry), along with co-authors from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, have identified an exercise-linked hormone that could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This research was recently published in the high-profile publication, Nature Medicine.

Gut hormone increases response to food

Alain Dagher

Dr. Alain Dagher

Ghrelin promotes conditioning to food-related odours

The holiday season is a hard one for anyone watching their weight. The sights and smells of food are hard to resist. One factor in this hunger response is a hormone found in the stomach that makes us more vulnerable to tasty food smells, encouraging overeating and obesity. New research on the hormone ghrelin was published on Dec. 4, 2018, led by Dr. Alain Dagher’s lab at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University.

VIP type neurons connect two brain regions involved in memory consolidation

Lisa Topolnik

Lisa Topolnik

Researchers have discovered a type of neuron that would coordinate the consolidation of memory

In an article published today in Nature Communications, researchers from Université Laval and Oxford University report having discovered a new type of neuron in the mouse brain. These neurons connect two structures associated with memory and may coordinate the consolidation of information about contextual or episodic memory.

Can’t sleep? Fruit flies and energy drinks offer new clues

Peco, van Meyel, Davla

Peco, van Meyel, Davla

Source: MUHC Newsroom

Sleep is an essential behavioural state in animals ranging from invertebrates to humans. It is critical for immune function, stable metabolism, brain repair, learning and memory. Over the course of a lifetime, more than 30 per cent of people will experience a sleep disorder, which is associated with a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Immune cells cross-talk to prevent damage-driving inflammation following CNS injury

Samuel David

Samuel David

New research by Samuel David at McGill University provides new insight on the role of macrophages and resident microglia following injury to the central nervous system. 

Infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) and resident microglia dominate at sites of central nervous system (CNS) injury. These cells have different origins – MDMs arise from the bone marrow throughout life, while microglia arise from the yolk sac during embryonic development and populate the CNS.

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.

Concussions loosen insulation around brain cells

Alex Rauscher

Alex Rauscher

Researchers say the findings provide a convincing reason to keep concussed athletes on the bench even if they no longer exhibit any symptoms.

Detailed scans of concussed University of British Columbia hockey players found that the protective fatty tissue surrounding brain cell fibres was loosened two weeks after the injury—even though the athletes felt fine and were deemed ready to return to the ice.

The link between obesity, the brain, and genetics

Alain Dagher

Dr. Alain Dagher

When it comes to weight gain, the problem may be mostly in our heads, and our genes

Clinicians should consider how the way we think can make us vulnerable to obesity, and how obesity is genetically intertwined with brain structure and mental performance, according to new research.

The study, led by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Aug. 28, 2018, was an examination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cognitive test data from 1,200 individuals, supplied as part of the Human Connectome Project.

Congratulations to newly elected fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, and to the incoming class of the college of new scientists

The Royal Society of Canada has recently announced new Fellows in the Academies of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science.  They have been elected by their peers for their outstanding scholarly, scientific and artistic achievement. Recognition by the RSC is the highest honour an individual can achieve in the Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences.

The RSC also welcomed new Members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, that include top mid-career leaders in Canada. The College provides the RSC with a multigenerational capacity to help Canada and the world address major challenges and seize new opportunities including those identified in emerging fields.

Genetic model offers elegant tool for testing Parkinson’s disease therapies

Matthew Farrer

Matthew Farrer

For the past decade, Parkinson’s disease researchers have relied on the experimental equivalent of using a sledgehammer to tune a guitar to test new therapies for the disease. This may be a reason clinical trials of promising neuroprotective drugs fail. But, in new research published today in Nature Parkinson’s Disease, researchers at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH) may have found the ideal tool for the job.

“We believe we’ve found an approach that is most relevant to humans, in that our models of gene dysfunction mimic the etiology of Parkinson’s disease rather than its pathology— meaning its beginning rather than its end,” says Dr. Matthew Farrer, the study’s lead investigator and a researcher at the Centre for Applied Neurogenetics at DMCBH. “This means we’re looking at the disease before it becomes symptomatic, before it begins affecting an individual’s motor skills or cognition.”

Scientist denied visas to attend next SfN meeting

Individual members of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) have alerted us to the fact that a number of scientists across Canada are being denied visas to enter the United States to attend the next annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. Many are students and postdoctoral fellows who have left their home countries to dedicate their energy and talents to research into devastating brain and mental health conditions that afflict millions worldwide. CAN takes the position that the exchange of ideas cannot be limited by political boundaries. To do so severely compromises the ability of the scientific enterprise to develop new ideas and advance humanity. Scientists must have the ability to travel freely to discuss their work and interact with colleagues across the globe.

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.