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 the development 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.