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Canadian Achievements in Neuroscience

Dr. Wilder Penfield, the first neurosurgeon in Montreal, established the Montreal Neurological Institute where surgeons, laboratory researchers, physiologists and all scientists in the field of neurology could work and share their knowledge.

Dr. Herbert Henri Jasper pioneered the application of the electroencephalogram (EEG) for the study of the electrical activity of the brain and used this technique in studies of consciousness, learning and particularly the examination of epileptic discharge. He opened the EGG Department at the Montreal Neurological Institute, in collaboration with Dr. Penfield.

Dr. Donald Olding Hebb, described as the father of neuropsychology and neural networks, puts forth “The Organization of Behaviour,” a model on how the brain and the mind are connected. It brought together the two realms of human perception that for a long time could not be connected properly, that is, the biological function of the brain as an organ together with the higher function of the mind. The model influenced how psychologists understood the processing of stimuli within the mind, and also opened up the way for the creation of computational machines that mimicked the biological processes of a living nervous system.

Many believe that Dr. Endel Tulving is the most creative and insightful theoretician the field of memory has ever known. He is best-known for his theory of "encoding specificity" the relation between storage and retrieval necessary for the remembering of an event and for his concept of episodic memory. In 1972 he proposed a basic distinction between two kinds of memory. He called one episodic and the other semantic memory.

Dr Graham Godard, of the University of Waterloo, and Dr. Dan McIntyre, of Carleton University, develop the “kindling” model, by which the brain cells in rat populations were stimulated or “fired” in a way to effectively develop an epileptic seizure. The seizure trigger areas were located in the temporal lobes along the sides of the brain. In humans, epilepsy originating in these lobes is both the most common form and the most difficult to treat. In 1969, they demonstrated that kindling could also be induced chemically. The model went on to become the world’s most commonly used model to study epilepsy.

Dr. David Hunter Hubel was co-recipient with Torsten Wiesel of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system. Hubel and Wiesel's experiments showed that ocular dominance develops irreversibly early in childhood development. These studies opened the door for the understanding and treatment of childhood cataracts and strabismus. They were also important in the study of cortical plasticity.

Recent Canadian achievements in neuroscience

A team of researchers led by NeuroScience Canada-funded Dr. Michael Salter has identified a molecule that causes neuropathic pain. This finding may lead to a new and previously unknown way of treating chronic pain.

Dr. Peter Dirks, a researcher and neurosurgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, isolated "brain-cancer stem cells" in humans.

Drs. Yves De Koninck and Michael Salter, a NSC-funded researcher discovered the key protein involved in neuropathic pain.

Dr. David Kaplan, a NeuroScience Canada -funded researcher from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has discovered a protein responsible for the death of nervous systems cells. Understanding how we could inhibit its functions could represent survival for thousands of people affected by neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, as well as spinal cord injury.


A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics provided ground-breaking evidence of a possible treatment for Huntington disease.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Peter St. George-Hyslop, director of the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CRND) at the University of Toronto, has isolated another gene responsible for Alzheimer's disease.