What’s Behind the Brain?
The Faculty of Medicine at McGill was not only the university’s first faculty in 1829 but the first faculty of medicine in the country. From the beginning, it attracted notoriety. The McGill Faculty of Medicine would become the core unit in a world-leading aggregation of medical teaching, clinical and research institutes.
The ascendancy of neuroscience in that collective traces back to surgeon-scientist Wilder Penfield. It was Penfield who attracted the Rockefeller grant that built and staffed the Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute (MNHI), which opened in 1934.
Today, the McGill neurosciences galaxy contains a world class collection of resources in the field.
Here are the leading components comprising the Brain@McGill.
Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain
The Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain has been a world leader in research directed at understanding how the brain processes information to create the experience of pain.
The centre comprises 39 researchers and 100 trainees from the Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Science. Its main goal is to bring together the McGill community of basic and clinical pain researchers to promote research that will result in cures for chronic pain.
Through activities and international collaborations, the Centre focuses on new discoveries and their clinical applications that will improve the prevention and treatment of chronic pain.
Watch this video on the Centre for Research on Pain.
Centre for Research in Neuroscience
The Centre for Research in Neuroscience (CRN) is located in the Research Institute of the Montreal General Hospital.
Historically the focus of the CRN has been in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neural regeneration with an aim to mitigating the effects of trauma to the Central Nervous System.
The intellectual fulcrum for this work derived from now-famous studies by CRN members Aguayo, Richardson, David, Bray and Rasminsky that showed CNS neurons had the capacity to regenerate axons long distances within peripheral nerve grafts.
Knowing that CNS neurons had the capacity to regenerate launched a world-wide effort to identify factors that would mimic peripheral nerve grafts and stimulate regeneration in the central nervous system.
Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music (CRBLM)
Language is undeniably the most advanced and complex human ability, one that sets us apart from all other species. To truly understand this uniquely human capacity, interdisciplinary research is essential.
The Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music (CRBLM) brings together an exceptional group of researchers and scholars from a variety of disciplines, faculties, and departments at McGill, l’Université du Québec à Montréal, l’Université de Montréal and Concordia University whose research focuses on the unique neurobiological and social endowment of language.
The research conducted within the CRBLM aims to address all aspects of language and language processing. From studying the basic building blocks of speech articulation to mapping the neural structures involved in comprehending complex sentences, from understanding how infants and young children learn language to how language is processed in the visual modality, the Centre’s investigations focus on fundamental theory-building as well as clinical and educational applications.
Douglas Mental Health University Institute
The Douglas shares with the Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute a structure that combines leading-edge lab research in mental health with clinical experience. Over 60 researchers, some world-renowned, focus on four themes: Aging and Alzheimer Disease; Mood, Anxiety and Impulsivity-Related Disorders; Schizophrenia and Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Services, Policy and Population Health.
The Douglas sets itself apart with innovative research projects in the neurosciences, clinical and psychosocial divisions. The institute’s Research Centre brings together over 300 distinguished researchers and post-doctoral fellows from all over the world, who produce some 215 scientific publications every year.
Integrated Program in Neuroscience
The Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN) is McGill’s campus-wide graduate program in neuroscience.
Montreal is home to the largest concentration of neuroscientists in North America. Neuroscience research at McGill University is internationally renowned, and the IPN provides graduate training in this outstanding research environment.
The program comprises more than 170 faculty and 280 graduate students, working in fields that span the full spectrum of neuroscience research, from cellular and molecular aspects to cognitive neuroscience. It is the largest graduate program in the Faculty of Medicine and one of the largest neuroscience graduate programs in North America.
If you are interested in studying neuroscience at McGill, read more about the IPN here. (Link to full IPN text in section Learning)
Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General
The Lady Davis Institute, located at the Jewish General Hospital, is a major biomedical research centre conducting fundamental and clinical multidisciplinary investigations.
Aging is one of six major thematic research axes and is concentrated within the Bloomfield Centre for Research in Aging (BCRA).
The BCRA is unique in Canada, a centre focused on aging and neurodegenerative diseases with expertise extending from molecular studies of the pathophysiology of disease, up to clinical and imaging studies of AD, population studies, and evaluation of health delivery systems for the elderly.
A primary research theme in the Aging axis is Cognitive Neurosciences and Alzheimer's Disease. Studies include basic research on cerebral factors related to memory and memory loss in dementia; early diagnosis and novel treatments for dementia; clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease; resources available in the healthcare system for the elderly with dementia; and understanding frailty in the elderly.
There are 91 investigators with McGill academic appointments, 142 MSc and PhD students, 50 postdoctoral fellows and 248 technical, clerical and support staff housed in 125,000 sq. ft. of research space.
McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
The MUHC comprises six of the community’s major health institutes: the Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital & Institute, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Lachine Hospital.
Research is one of three core missions of the MUHC – along with Clinical Care and Teaching. The Research Institute of the MUHC supports over 500 researchers as well as 1,000 graduate and postdoctoral students. It operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research and it produces over 1,400 publications per year.
Neuroscience is one of 11 research programs. The major goal is to promote the development of therapeutic approaches to neurological disease through a program of basic and clinical research.
Translational research programs, including clinical trials, are being conducted on a range of neurological disorders including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cerebrovascular disease, epilepsy, migraine, brain aneurysms and brain tumours
The MUHC is currently carrying out a $2.25-billion Redevelopment Project on three campuses—the Mountain, the Glen and Lachine—designed to provide healthcare professionals with an effective environment in which to ensure patients and their families benefit from The Best Care for Life.
(Read more on neuroscience research in the MUHC) (link: http://muhc.ca/research/research-axis/neurosciences)
McGill Language and Memory Laboratory
The Language and Memory Laboratory of the McGill Psychology Department investigates how the human brain uses contextual information during the comprehension and production of language.
Researchers also investigate the neurocognitive basis of human relational memory. They conduct behavioural, neuroimaging and eyetracking experiments that address questions such as:
- How do monolinguals and bilinguals resolve linguistic ambiguity across different levels of language (e.g., words, phrases, sentences)?
- How do people coordinate the demands of language comprehension and production during conversational interaction?
- How are these phenomena manifest in the healthy human brain, and in neuropsychological conditions such as Schizophrenia?
The lab has a behavioral testing room that can run up to 3 research participants simultaneously and a testing room dedicated to EEG and ERP studies. The team also has access to facilities and equipment provided by the Center for Research on Language Mind, and Brain and the MNI.
McGill Vision Research
McGill Vision Research is multidisciplinary with the common aim of understanding how the brain processes visual information and enables us to see.
The combined expertise of five faculty members, each with autonomously-funded laboratories located within one research centre, makes this a unit with a history of strong collaborative research and a world leader in the field of visual neuroscience.
Key areas of research include understanding how the adult brain sees motion, form, depth and colour in the visual scene.
The clinical areas of research include amblyopia (lazy eye), through which we aim to understand the importance of visual experience in early life for developing normal visual function, and the consequences of disrupting visual function in childhood, which frequently leads to poor vision or amblyopia in adulthood.
McGill Vision Research has strong collaborative links with the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery and the Montreal Neurological Institute, Psychology, Biomedical Engineering and Physiology.
McGill University Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery
Four clinical units are associated with McGill University's Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery.
These units are located at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Jewish General Hospital, and the Montreal Children's Hospital.
Each unit consists of separate neurological and neurosurgical divisions.
The Neurology and Neurosurgery Residency Programs have the specific goals of training both clinical neurologists and neurosurgeons and academic clinician-scientists. They are designed to meet requirements in adult neurology, pediatric neurology, and neurosurgery and residents rotate to each hospital in the course of their training.
Adult elective neurosurgery is done exclusively at the Montreal Neurological Hospital. Paediatric neurosurgery including paediatric neurotrauma is done at the Montreal Children's Hospital. Neuro-Trauma is done at the Montreal General Hospital.
The 5-year adult neurology training program is comprised of 1 year of internal medicine and 4 years of neurology. The core training includes a total 2 years of clinical rotations on the teaching units of the participating hospitals.
The 5-year child neurology training program consists of 1 year of pediatrics and 4 years of neurology. The content of the neurology years is similar to the training in adult neurology, the main difference being that the majority of the clinical neurology exposure is at the Montreal Children's Hospital.
The McGill University Neurology and Neurosurgery Residency Programs have the specific goals of training both clinical neurologists and neurosurgeons and academic clinician-scientists. For more information: http://neurology.mcgill.ca/residency.html
McGill University Department of Pharmacology
Research in the Department encompasses a wide variety of areas, prominent among which is neuropharmacology. This involves the study and treatment of debilitating diseases of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, mental depression and drug abuse.
Investigations in this field are by definition multidisciplinary in nature. They address the fundamental mechanisms underlying drug action in the nervous system, and the knowledge already gained through the research of several of our staff members should lead to the discovery of novel treatments for these disorders.
One of the strengths of the Department’s training program is exposure to a wealth of opportunities and collaborative interactions among the various laboratories it engenders.
Research facilities are located at the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building and also a variety of laboratories located within the MUHC, other institutes and industry in the Montreal area.
McGill University Department of Physiology
Neuroscience is one of 10 Research Themes under study at the Department of Physiology at many different levels using state-of-the-art experimental approaches. This includes understanding the molecules that are important for our brain's development and function, the cellular function of our individual neurons and synapses, and the larger brain systems that underlie our perception and motor control.
The ultimate goal is to combine basic neuroscience research with clinical investigations to reveal the biological basis of the human mind and to cure diseases that affect our mental health.
The research approaches span different areas of visual neuroscience including human visual psychophysics, animal neurophysiology and optical imaging, computational approaches, human fMRI brain imaging, TMS, and clinical psychophysics.
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital
The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, the Neuro, is a world-class academic medical centre that combines an internationally leading research centre, dedicated to unlocking the secrets of the brain and neurological diseases, with specialized hospital services that ensure the highest quality of advanced care for patients with neurological diseases. This unique structure has become a model for institutions around the world.
More than 90 researchers and physicians at the Neuro form multidisciplinary teams engaged in the full spectrum of contemporary neuroscience research and apply that knowledge to understanding and treating neurological diseases. In 2007, the Canadian government named the Neuro as one of seven Centres of Excellence in Commercialization and Research in recognition of its innovative and outstanding work.
The Neuro is an ideal environment for translational research where experts apply discoveries of basic science research to improve the care of patients suffering from neurological diseases. Patients benefit from close interaction among clinical and basic scientists and can receive treatment for ALS, brain tumours, epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis, pain, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions. Patients also benefit from technical advances in brain imaging, neuro-radiology, neuro-navigation and neuro-stimulation.