Donald O. Hebb (1904-1985) was one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century and is often considered the father of neuropsychology. He is credited with having brought together the fields of neuroscience and psychology through his research looking at the neural underpinnings of human behaviours, which represented a major shift in thinking at the time. Donald O. Hebb is most well known for his cell assembly theory of how neural pathways develop based on experiences. This theory, most often summarized as “cells that fire together, wire together,” continues to be applied in many different areas of research, including in computational modeling and artificial intelligence.
To find out more about Donald O. Hebb, consult the website of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience and his profile in the Cambridge Medicine Journal.
Theodore Rasmussen (1910-2002) was a Canadian neurosurgeon, neurologist, and neuropathologist who was considered the foremost authority in epilepsy surgery. He compiled large databases of epilepsy surgery outcomes, which allowed him not only to refine surgical treatments but also to characterize different types of epilepsy. He also worked alongside Dr. Wilder Penfield on his cortical mapping studies, a collaboration that culminated in the publication of “The Cerebral Cortex of Man”. Dr. Rasmussen succeeded Wilder Penfield as Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and, while his contributions to neuroscience are numerous, he is perhaps most well known for characterizing a chronic form of encephalitis accompanied by epilepsy that affects children, called Rasmussen’s encephalitis.
Endel Tulving is an internationally renowned experimental psychologist who has revolutionized our understanding of human memory. He is most well known for his research on the distinction between episodic and semantic memory, that is the difference between memory systems used to recall general facts (semantic) and those used to recall personal facts (episodic). Along with his many other discoveries, his work laid the foundation for the field of memory research. His research has also advanced our understanding of neurological conditions like stroke and Alzheimer’s. His outstanding contributions to the field of neuroscience have been recognized in part through his election to six national academies of science worldwide. He has also received the prestigious Gairdner Award and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Heinz E. Lehmann (1911-1999) was one of the pioneers of modern psychopharmacology and psychiatric clinical investigation. He was the first to introduce chlorpromazine to North America for the treatment of schizophrenia and was the first to recognize the effectiveness of imipramine for the treatment of depression. His contributions effectively changed the way patients were treated, putting an end to asylum care and introducing instead the concept of rehabilitation. Among his many accomplishments, Heinz Lehmann was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
Sandra Black is an internationally renowned neurologist who specializes in cognitive impairment and dementias. She is doing ground-breaking work on vascular dementia, Alzheimer's disease and stroke, helping to improve the diagnosis and the treatment of these disorders. Dr. Black has conducted numerous clinical trials, including the Sunnybrook Dementia Trial which has recruited more than 1,300 people since it was launched in 1995. She is also a co-principal investigator of the first-in-human focused ultrasound-Alzheimer’s disease clinical trial. Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Black was named to the Order of Ontario, elected to the Royal Society of Canada and appointed an Officer to the Order of Canada.
George Karpati (1934-2009) was one of Canada’s most distinguished neurologists and a leading figure in the field of muscular dystrophy research. His contributions include one of the biggest breakthroughs in muscular dystrophy research: recognizing the importance of dystrophin in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In addition, he also made important contributions to metabolic muscle diseases, inflammatory muscle diseases, and even a rare disorder of muscle contractility called the Brody syndrome. Dr. Karpati also investigated the potential of gene therapy as a way to repair cellular damage in these conditions. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Knight of the National Order of Quebec.
Albert Aguayo made the ground-breaking discovery that the mammalian central nervous system can repair itself following injury. This challenged the widely held notion that neurons could not regenerate and fundamentally changed the field of neuroscience research by generating renewed interest in neural regeneration – a field which remains a “hot topic” to this day. Among many other honors and awards, Dr. Aguayo was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada, has been inducted to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and has received the prestigious Gairdner International Prize. Dr. Aguayo has also contributed to many important organizations in the field, such as by serving as the Director of the Centre for Research in Neuroscience at McGill University, the President of the Society for Neuroscience, and as secretary general and President of the International Brain Research Organization.
For more information on Dr. Aguayo, please visit the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and his profile on the website of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience.
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).
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.
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.