News

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.

Canadian researchers find key players for building and repairing the brain

Understanding how the brain is built during development leads to new therapeutic approaches for repairing brain injury.

Research by Dr. Freda Miller and her team at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto has determined how brain stem cells and the environment they live within collaborate to build brain circuits during development, discoveries that have led to a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders in children.  The Miller lab and her basic research collaborators work closely with their clinical colleagues to harness this information and develop new approaches for treating brain injury.  These results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 15th, 2018.

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 These unpublished results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 15th, 2018.

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.

Discovery of differences in the brains of rats classified as workers vs. slackers

Catharine Winstanley at the University of British Columbia presents discoveries revealing the brain mechanisms involved in decision-making

A team of researchers led by Dr. Catharine Winstanley at the University of British Columbia have uncovered a network of regions in the brain that are involved in determining the choice of working harder to get a bigger reward, or putting in a lesser effort and receiving a smaller reward. Understanding how the brain makes such decisions is one of the most fundamental questions in neuroscience and psychology, and sophisticated animal behavioural testing, coupled with advance brain imaging and stimulation techniques are shedding light on this important process. These results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 14th, 2018.

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

New insights into clogged brain capillaries and why we lose them with age

Craig Brown

Craig Brown

Scientists have known for years that blood vessel loss in the brain impacts cognitive decline as people age. New research from the University of Victoria has provided an explanation for why we lose blood vessels—vital knowledge that could lead to better preventive and protective strategies for maintaining brain health.

UVic neuroscientist Craig Brown and PhD student Patrick Reeson have been researching the phenomenon of clogged capillaries, the brain’s smallest blood vessels. These tiny capillaries routinely get “stuck,” clogged by cells, fat and debris in the blood. Most clear within seconds to minutes, however some can remain stuck for much longer, but what ultimately happens to these lingering clogs has remained a mystery.

National study on vulnerability in mental health and psychiatric research

Invitation to participate in a research study on vulnerability in mental health research ethics

National study on vulnerability in mental health and psychiatric research

Does a mental health condition prevent someone from being able to participate to research?

What are acceptable conditions for ethical mental health and psychiatric research?

Strict eating schedule can lower Huntington disease protein in mice

Michael Hayden

Michael Hayden

New research from the University of British Columbia suggests that following a strict eating schedule can help clear away the protein responsible for Huntington disease in mice.

Huntington disease (HD) is an inherited, progressive disorder that causes involuntary movements and psychiatric problems. Symptoms appear in adulthood and worsen over time. Children born to a parent with HD have a one in two chance of inheriting the disease, which is caused by a buildup of mutant huntingtin protein (mHTT).

Better understanding ALS by looking at how cells change

Jade-Emmanuelle Deshaies - Christine Vande Velde

Jade-Emmanuelle Deshaies – Christine Vande Velde

Eight years in the making, a discovery by neuroscientists at the CRCHUM highlights the value of long-term, fundamental research and provides important information for future drug targets.

It took eight long years of research, but now an international team led by neuroscientists at Université de Montréal has discovered a basic molecular mechanism that better helps understand how Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), works.

McMaster researchers pinpoint genes causing complex brain disorders

Karun Singh

McMaster University Scientists have published 2 studies identifying which gene is responsible for causing brain development disorders when several genes are deleted in an individual’s genome, providing a path forward for developing new therapies.

In Ontario, there are more than 300,000 children and youth affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and intellectual disability. These disorders typically cause long-term problems and impact the day-to-day life of affected individuals and families. There are no specific treatments, and medications have side-effects that can be severe in children and young adults.

Research uncovers new link between head trauma, CTE and ALS

Strong & Moszczynski

Researchers at Western University have uncovered a unique neurobiological pathway triggered by head trauma which underlies both Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

CTE is a fatal neurodegenerative disease shown to be a result of repeated head trauma, and is associated with elite athletes involved in contact sports. Previous research has shown that between 4 and 6 per cent of patients with CTE will also simultaneously show clinical features of ALS – that’s 800 fold higher than the prevalence of ALS in the general population.

Not being aware of memory problems predicts onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Pedro Rosa-Neto

Pedro Rosa-Neto

New research could provide clinicians with insights regarding clinical progression to dementia

Doctors who work with individuals at risk of developing dementia have long suspected that patients who do not realize they experience memory problems are at greater risk of seeing their condition worsen in a short time frame, a suspicion that now has been confirmed by a team of McGill University clinician scientists.

Concussion stalls adolescent brains, reduces cognitive flexibility

Naznin Virji-Babul

Naznin Virji-Babul

Concussion affects the developing adolescent brain and may delay key cognitive processes, hampering the brain’s ability to change focus and pay attention. New research from Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul’s team, published today in the journal ASN Neuro, shows that concussion changes the way that different neural networks interact, stalling the brain in a state of cognitive inflexibility.

Even at rest, the brain is continuously active, processing and exchanging information.  This active interaction between different parts of the brain is necessary for a person to be aware of her surroundings, or to be able to focus on his work or switch between tasks.

Longer, better, faster … smaller? New genome sequencing tool promises richer biological insight

Terrance Snutch

Terrance Snutch

For the past three years, Dr. Terrance Snutch and research associate Dr. John Tyson have been working with Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) to develop a novel deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing tool with promising implications for personalized medicine. About the size of a mobile phone, the MinION device is a USB-powered DNA sequencer capable of mapping complex genomic structures; with it, researchers were recently able to assemble a complete human genome using reads hundreds of times larger than has previously been possible with conventional methods.

A mutation that causes mirrored sensations

Artur Kania and Ronan da Silva

Artur Kania and Ronan da Silva

Research from the IRCM contributes to our understanding of how our brain locates painful stimuli

When you experience a painful sensation such as touching a hot stove with your hand, the pain is restricted to your hand, allowing you to remove it quickly from the source of heat. How does the brain know that the pain is indeed coming from your hand and not from anywhere else on your body? Work recently published by Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) researchers help clarifying this question.

Revolutionary technology allows brain surgery without breaking the skin

Zelma KissUniversity of Calgary research study benefits people with severe essential tremor

Elias Pharaon is 85 years old and can sign his name for the first time in five years thanks to a new way to do brain surgery. Performed by a team of University of Calgary physicians and researchers with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a new technology that allows surgeons to access the brain without cutting the skin or drilling into the skull.

UCalgary researcher leads Canada-wide clinical trial using anti-psychotic drug to treat ALS

Lawrence Korngut

Pimozide, known for treating certain psychiatric conditions, may stabilize progression of the disease. The University of Calgary’s Lawrence Korngut is leading a clinical trial with nine hospital centres across Canada to recruit patients for further study.
If you took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you may have wondered where the money raised by the millions of people who poured buckets of ice water over their heads went. Some of those funds are being invested in a University of Calgary research study investigating a potential drug treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients.

Is your stress changing my brain?

Bains & Sterley

Bains & Sterley

UCalgary researchers discover stress isn’t just contagious; it alters the brain on a cellular level

In a new study in Nature Neuroscience, Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary have discovered that stress transmitted from others can change the brain in the same way as a real stress does. The study, in mice, also shows that the effects of stress on the brain are reversed in female mice following a social interaction. This was not true for male mice.

Researchers suggest a new approach to improve neuron grafts in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease

Martin LévesqueTreating people affected by Parkinson’s disease by grafting healthy neurons is an attractive idea which has not yet given the anticipated results up until now.  Even if grafted neurons survive, they are not able to recreate the dopaminergic neuron circuits that are essential for normal brain function.  An international team led by Martin Lévesque, professor at Université Laval and researcher at the CERVO Brain Research Centre, might have figured out why.  In a recent edition of Nature Communications, the researchers propose a “recipe” to produce neurons that could reconstitute the neuron circuits that are destroyed by Parkinson’s disease.

Progression of Parkinson’s disease follows brain connectivity

Alain Dagher

Dr. Alain Dagher

A study by a group of researchers led by Alain Dagher from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University has tested the theory that brain degeneration in Parkinson’s disease (PD) originates in subcortical regions and spreads along neural networks to the cerebral cortex. By analyzing data on PD patients and healthy controls collected over one year, the researchers found that brain regions closely connected to subcortical regions showed the most degeneration over the one-year period in PD patients, and that this happens earlier than previously thought.

Researcher Hideto Takahashi decrypts signals from neurons

Hideto Takahashi

Hideto Takahashi

A discovery by Hideto Takahashi and his team paves the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Did you know? Your body is made up of a hundred billion nerve cells that, like small computers, receive, process and deliver crucial information to your body. These machines are your neurons. They form the very foundation of your nervous system. It is through them that your brain converts the data transmitted by your retina into images and that your mood adapts to the situations you are living.

A non-invasive method to detect Alzheimer’s disease

John Breitner

John Breitner

Volume in brain region linked to physiological changes characteristic of AD

New research has drawn a link between changes in the brain’s anatomy and biomarkers that are known to appear at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), findings that could one day provide a sensitive but non-invasive test for AD before cognitive symptoms appear.

How chronic social stress can lead to depression

Caroline Ménard

Caroline Ménard

A recent publication by Caroline Ménard shows that chronic stress, as occurs in cases of bullying, can make the blood-brain barrier more permeable to contaminants and microbes that may be in the blood.  As the brains of depressed individuals show signs of inflammation, Caroline Ménard and her colleagues had hypothesized that leakiness of the blood brain barrier could allow molecules and microbes to reach the brain, causing inflammation.