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Celebrating Canadian leadership in brain research

 

Freda Miller is a leading figure in the field of stem cell research and nervous system development. Her work looks at how neurons grow, survive and die, with the aim of identifying factors that affect neuronal development in health and in disease. Ground-breaking work from her lab has also shown that adult mammalian skin contains stem cells that can be induced to create neural cells. Together, her research findings have enormous potential to treat debilitating nervous system conditions, and to advance our understanding of how the brain works. Dr. Miller is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

For more information on Dr. Miller, consult Sick Kids’ website and her profile on the Canada Research Chairs page.

 

Doreen Kimura (1933-2013) was an internationally known researcher and is considered among the founders of the field of neuropsychology in Canada. Her work focused on many aspects of brain function, like brain lateralization, language, complex motor function, spatial abilities and sex differences, and has influenced a generation of scientists around the world. Early in her career, the work she completed under the supervision of two of Canada’s most renowned neuroscientists, Brenda Milner and Donald O. Hebb, had an enormous influence on the nascent field of human neuropsychology. Dr. Kimura’s impact on the field of brain research continues to be felt, with her articles on cerebral lateralization still being widely-cited.

To find out more about Dr. Kimura, visit the website of the University of Western Ontario and the website of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science.

 

Peter St George-Hyslop has been doing ground-breaking work on Alzheimer’s disease for more than 30 years, making him one of the most well known neurodegenerative researchers in the world. He has discovered that Alzheimer’s is caused by a number of different factors, including genetics and the environment, which has fundamentally changed the field of Alzheimer’s research. He has also discovered genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, including several genes that when mutated lead to early onset hereditary Alzheimer’s, as well as genes involved in Parkinson’s, motor neuron disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, among others.  His work has accelerated our understanding of Alzheimer’s and thedevelopment of potential treatments, and his earned him a number of prestigious honors such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Scholar Award, and being elected to the Royal Society of Canada and to the Order of Canada.

For more information about Dr. St George-Hyslop, read his profile on the website of the University of Toronto and on science.ca

 

Ronald Melzack revolutionized our understanding and treatment of pain. Along with Dr. Patrick Wall, he developed the gate-control theory of pain which proposed that pain was not simply a response to a physical stimulus but rather was modulated by past experience. During his postdoctoral studies, Dr. Melzack noted and categorized hundreds of words used to describe pain, which led to the creation of the McGill Pain Questionnaire in 1975. This questionnaire is now the most widely used method for measuring pain in clinical research worldwide. Dr. Melzack also co-founded Canada’s first pain clinic, servings as its Research Director for nearly 30 years.

To find out more about Dr. Melzack, visit McGill University's website and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.


Gillian Einstein
is at the forefront of ground-breaking research focused on women’s brain health. Some of her recent work is looking into the reasons behind the increased prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in women. Beyond focusing only on biological variables, Dr. Einstein is also interested in how gender – the socially and culturally constructed roles, behaviours and expectations of men and women – and other life experiences affect biology and disease risk. Dr. Einstein founded the Collaborative Program in Women’s Health at the University of Toronto. She was also awarded the inaugural Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair of Women’s Brain Health and Aging to further investigate why women are more affected by brain disorders like depression, stroke and dementia.

For more information on Dr. Einstein, visit her lab's website and read her profile in the Toronto Star.

Herbert Jasper (1906-1999) is considered to be one of the most influential neurophysiologists of the 20th century. He was one of the pioneers of electroencephalography (EEG), publishing the first paper on human EEG in the United States in 1935. Dr. Jasper was largely responsible for introducing this new technique to Canada, and he worked alongside Dr. Penfield to help discover how the brain works in both health and disease. Among his many achievements, he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and received the Albert Einstein World Award of Science in 1995.

To find out more about Dr. Jasper, visit the Montreal Neurological Institute's website and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Brenda Milner has made groundbreaking discoveries about the way different types of memories are created and stored, and is regarded by many as having pioneered the field of cognitive neuroscience. She is most well known for her work with patient HM, who became unable to acquire new long-term memories following brain surgery. By studying how the brain’s hemispheres interact and discovering that different memory systems are responsible for different types of learning, Dr. Milner fundamentally changed our understanding of how the brain works. Now 100 years old, Dr. Milner is considered to be one of the greatest neuroscientists of the 20th century.

For more on Dr. Milner, visit The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and the Montreal Neurological Institute's website.

Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) revolutionized our understanding of the human brain. He established the "Montreal procedure" for the surgical treatment of epilepsy, which allows patients to remain awake throughout surgery in order to describe what they feel when different areas of the brain are stimulated. This enabled surgeons to pinpoint the areas of the brain that were causing seizures, and also enabled Dr. Penfield to create functional maps of the brain. Dr. Penfield was also the founder and inaugural Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, an internationally renowned research center that continues to be at the forefront of  brain research. 

To find out more about Dr. Penfield, visit the Montreal Neurological Institute's website and The Canadian Encyclopedia.