Read CAN Connection – the September 2023 edition!

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Table of content:

Message from the President, Adriana Di Polo

A Promising Non-Invasive Therapy to Promote Repair and Remyelination in Multiple Sclerosis

Valerie Verge

Source of story: MS Canada website

Summary: Researchers find that a non-drug based treatment approach called acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH), which consists of short periods of reduced oxygen, reduces inflammation, protects nerve fibres, and promotes repair in mice with multiple sclerosis-like disease. While the findings of this study are promising, further research will need to assess whether this treatment has the same effect in people with MS.

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Identification of a previously unknown mechanism controlling the interaction between astrocytes and blood vessels in the brain

Moises Freitas-Andrade and Baptiste Lacoste

Moises Freitas-Andrade, Baptiste Lacoste

Title of publication : Astroglial Hmgb1 regulates postnatal astrocyte morphogenesis and cerebrovascular maturation.

First author : Dr. Moises Freitas-Andrade

A new publication from Dr. Baptiste Lacoste’s laboratory at University of Ottawa identifies a previously unknown mechanism controlling the interaction between astrocytes and blood vessels in the brain.

Serving as bridges between neurons and blood vessels in the brain, astrocytes (a type of glial cells) send specialized extensions or ‘endfeet’ around blood vessels to help shape these vessels during development and later control cerebral blood flow (CBF). Astrocytes belong to the ‘neurovascular unit’ (NVU), a multi-cellular ensemble serving as a hub for neurovascular interactions. Despite a wealth of knowledge on astrocytes, and while we know these cells become mature after birth, little is known about the mechanisms driving their recruitment around brain blood vessels, or about their contribution to blood vessel maturation.

In this study, Dr. Lacoste’s team addresses these knowledge gaps not only by thoroughly characterizing the time course of astrocyte-blood vessel interactions in the early postnatal mouse brain, but also by assessing gene expression changes in astrocytes during that period. Doing so, the researchers identify an important molecular player produced by astrocytes, namely HMGB1, which controls their morphology, their placement around blood vessels, and the maturation of NVU.

Using genetic tools to block the production of HMGB1 protein selectively in astrocytes early after birth, Dr. Lacoste’s team shows that HMGB1 controls astrocyte morphogenesis and the maturation of endfeet around blood vessels. Lack of HMGB1 in astrocytes at birth impaired blood vessel maturation and resulted in surprising alterations of behavior in adult mice, that displayed an anxiety-like phenotype.

This study thus identifies a previously unknown mechanism controlling the interaction between astrocytes and blood vessels in the brain, helping scientists to better understand postnatal brain development and the contribution of non-neuronal cells to this process.

Publication: Freitas-Andrade, M., Comin, C.H., Van Dyken, P. et al. Astroglial Hmgb1 regulates postnatal astrocyte morphogenesis and cerebrovascular maturation. Nat Commun 14, 4965 (2023).

Study first to examine how early memory changes as we age at a cellular level

Old pictures of Japanese girl, 70’s child.

SickKids researchers discover that a matrix called the perineuronal net may be responsible for why human memories become more specific throughout childhood.

How do our brains become capable of creating specific memories? In one of the first preclinical studies to examine memory development in youth, a research team at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) may have identified a molecular cause for memory changes in early childhood. Continue reading

Mimicking brain plasticity in children to control post-traumatic stress

Marisol Lavertu-Jolin, étudiante de doctorat au moment des travaux et première auteure de l’étude, et Graziella Di Cristo, spécialiste en neurosciences au CHU Sainte-Justine CRÉDIT : CHARLINE PROVOST
Marisol Lavertu-Jolin, et Graziella Di Cristo

The CHU Sainte-Justine team, led by Graziella Di Cristo, has made an important breakthrough in the treatment of people suffering from symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress.

Could we temporarily increase brain plasticity in adults to decrease fear and anxiety responses in people who have experienced trauma? CHU Sainte-Justine Neuroscientist Graziella Di Cristo and her team were determined to find out. In a new study on mice, she was able to control fear responses by inducing desensitization to fear memories simultaneously with a temporary increase in brain malleability through control of gene activation. This is an exciting breakthrough for the treatment of people with symptoms related to post-traumatic stress. Continue reading

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 CAN- CIHR-INMHA Brain Star Awards!

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) and the Canadian Institutes of Health’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA) are proud to announce the winners of the 2022 Brain Star Awards.

The CIHR-INMHA Brain Star awards, administered by the Canadian Association for Neuroscience, are awarded to students and trainees who have published high impact discoveries in all fields and disciplines covered by CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction in the 2022 calendar year.

The top 3 Brain Star Award winners of the year have been invited to make a presentation at the CAN meeting in May.

Learn more about the Brain Star Award winners of 2022

Spring 2023 election results

We are happy to announce the results of the Spring 2023 elections!

We want to thank all candidates who showed interest in serving the community and all those who took the time to vote.

The following members were elected and will take office on June 1, 2023 Continue reading

Drs. Arkady Khoutorsky and Bratislav Misic win 2023 CAN New Investigator Awards

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is very proud to present Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky, Associate Professor in the Department of Anesthesia and Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences at McGill University, and Dr. Bratislav Misic, leader of the Network Neuroscience Lab at the Montreal Neurological Institute 2023 CAN New Investigator awards.

Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky is making disruptive contributions in two key areas of neuroscience: translational control in neurological disorders and chronic pain, and his work in both areas is bringing forward new concepts for developing novel types of therapeutic interventions. Read his full profile here: Arkady Khoutorsky wins a 2023 CAN New Investigator award for pioneering research on chronic pain and neurological disorders.

Dr. Bratislav Misic studies how cognition and behaviour emerge from the links and interactions among brain areas. His innovative work, integrating in vivo neuroimaging, statistical learning and network science, is profoundly transforming the field’s understanding of multi-scale structure-function relationships in the brain. Read his full profile here: Bratislav Misic wins a CAN 2023 New Investigator Award for ground-breaking work on brain networks

The CHU Sainte-Justine makes a giant step forward in understanding autism

Roberto Araya, Soledad Miranda Rottmann, Diana Mitchell (photo Charline Provost)


Source : CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

MONTREAL, February 16, 2023– Results of a new study led by Roberto Araya, a neuroscientist, biophysicist and researcher at the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, show that in Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common cause of autism, sensory signals from the outside world are integrated differently, causing them to be underrepresented by cortical pyramidal neurons in the brain. Continue reading