News

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.

Huai-Ying Huang of London, Ontario, Canada wins third place in the 2018 International Brain Bee Championship

Huai-Ying Huang

Huai-Ying Huang

Congratulations to 17 year-old Huai-Ying Huang of Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ontario, Canada, on winning third place in the 2018 International Brain Bee Championship in Berlin, held July 7-11, 2018! .

Huai-Ying Huang loves playing the piano and oboe, and is starting at McGill University to pursue her dream of becoming a neurologist or a neurosurgeon, not only because she has passion for neuroscience, but because she wants to be able to help people affected by neurological disorders.

Slowing down glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases

Jessica Agostinone and Adriana Di Polo

Jessica Agostinone and Adriana Di Polo

Major discovery at the CRCHUM: reestablishing communication between neurons to improve vision.

Neuroscience researcher Dr. Adriana Di Polo, Ph. D., and her team at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) in Canada, have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of glaucoma. Their findings could also be applicable to other neurodegenerative conditions, notably Alzheimer’s disease. The results have just been published in the prestigious British scientific journal Brain, an Oxford University Press publication.

Our earliest memories may be forgotten but not lost

Paul Frankland

Paul Frankland

TORONTO – When asked to think of their earliest memory, most would think of a time when they were four or five years old. The period from birth to kindergarten appears to be forgotten. Since the late 1800s, this phenomenon has been called “infantile amnesia” and debate on why we can’t remember our earliest years has persisted to this day: Are these memories gone or are they just difficult to access?

A new study from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) shows these early memories in mice are not missing and can be brought back by directly stimulating different clusters of neurons that represent individual infantile memories in the brain. The results, published in Current Biology, provide deeper insight into the complexities of forgetting.

Mechanisms underlying efficient coding of natural stimuli revealed

Maurice Chacron

Maurice Chacron

Researchers at McGill University have discovered that feedback pathways enable sensory neurons to respond to weak sensory input in order to lead to perception.
Published in PLoS Biology, their study shows that feedback pathways, which are seen ubiquitously across sensory systems and account for 90-95% of input onto sensory neurons, are necessary to generate neural responses and perception of weak sensory input that would otherwise not be detected by the organism. These results thus reveal an elegant mechanism by which the brain processes sensory information, which is critical for understanding brain function at large.

Understanding the origin of Alzheimer’s, looking for a cure

Gilbert BernierResearchers at Université de Montréal look at the promising role played by the BMI1 gene, which could someday help mitigate or even reverse the disease.

After a decade of work, a team led by Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont researcher and Université de Montréal associate professor Dr. Gilbert Bernier has shed promising light on the origin of the most common and prevalent form of Alzheimer’s disease, hoping to someday help mitigate or even reverse the progress of the disease. The team’s results are published in the prestigious scientific journal Cell Reports.

As harmful as dehydration?

Charles Bourque

Charles Bourque

Researchers uncover mechanisms of overhydration leading to hyponatremia – a common condition in patients after a traumatic brain injury

We are all familiar with the drawbacks of dehydration, but we rarely hear about the harmful effects of overhydration. It is known that excess fluid accumulation can lead to dangerously low sodium levels in the blood or hyponatremia – a life-threatening condition that can result in brain swelling. Similarly, more is known about the mechanisms in the body that detect and drive thirst while little is known about how the brain detects a state of overhydration.

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.