Two icons of neuroscience turn 90


Dr. Brenda Milner and Dr. William Feindel, pioneers in the world of science and medicine are both turning 90 years old this week and continue to advance knowledge and understanding of the brain at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Dr. Milner, eminent neuropsychologist, has had an extraordinary influence on the shape of neuroscience and on the work of scientists around the world. The origins of modern cognitive neuroscience can be traced directly to her rigorous and imaginative studies, which helped define our understanding of the brain and memory. Dr. Milner also generously donated $1 million dollars last year to the MNI's Thinking Ahead Campaign, a five-year $40 million initiative to invest in people and expand facilities and services at the MNI.

Dr. Feindel, highly-skilled neurosurgeon and former Director of the MNI (1972-1984), was instrumental in improving the surgical treatment of epilepsy, and responsible for bringing brain imaging research to Canada. He led a research team that pioneered one of the earliest units for positron emission tomography (PET), an imaging technology that has proved crucial to scientific and clinical advancement. He acquired for the MNI, Canada's first CAT scanner, first medical cyclotron, and first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instrument. These revolutionary systems were integrated into the institute's Brain Imaging Centre (BIC), now one of the largest in the world. During his directorship, Dr. Feindel supervised the funding and construction of the Penfield Pavilion and the Webster Pavilion, which doubled the MNI's clinical and research resources.

Both nonagenarians continue to be invaluable contributors to scientific progress and to the MNI, McGill, Montreal and Quebec. Dr. Feindel is senior neurosurgical consultant at the Montreal Neurological, Royal Victoria and Montreal General Hospitals. He is also curator of the Wilder Penfield Archive, member of the Board of Curators of the Osler Library, and honorary Osler librarian. He remains an active participant in the day-to-day activities of the MNI and is importantly concerned with planning the future of the institution.

Dr. Milner studies the cognitive function in the frontal and temporal lobes of humans. She uses PET and functional MRI to identify the brain regions involved in language processing in both unilingual and bilingual individuals as well as in patients with brain lesions that are in close proximity to areas critical for language. In another series of PET studies, she has sought to delineate further the role of the right hippocampal region in memory. She teaches and trains younger scientists, passing on essential knowledge and equipping them with the tools to further neuroscience.


Dr. Brenda Milner is the Dorothy J. Killam Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute, and a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Milner obtained her B.A. (1939) and M.A. (1949) in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge. She came to Canada from England and completed her Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology in 1952 under the supervision of Dr. Donald Hebb. Dr. Milner obtained her Sc.D. in 1972 in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Milner has published extensively and is a sought-after lecturer. She has received numerous accolades throughout her almost six-decade long career. Dr. Milner is a prestigious foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) - one of only sixteen from Canada. She was elected to the Academy in 1976 and was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005. She has been awarded Honorary Degrees from an astounding 19 different universities across Canada, the States and Europe. She is the recipient of numerous academic awards including both the Gairdner International Award in 2005 and the Prix Wilder Penfield (Prix du Québec) in 1993. Dr. Milner is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada and was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2004. An annual Lectureship in Cognitive Neuroscience at the MNI has been established in her name.

Dr. William Feindel is a Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. He is a Senior Neurosurgical Consultant at the Montreal Neurological, Royal Victoria and Montreal General Hospitals. He is Curator of the Wilder Penfield Archive, member of the Board of Curators of the Osler Library, and Honorary Osler Librarian. Dr. Feindel conducted his studies at four universities: Acadia (Honours Biology, BA, 1939) where he was elected Nova Scotian Rhodes Scholar to Oxford, entering the Honours School of Physiology (1939-40); then instructor in physiology at Dalhousie (MSc, 1942); medical student and Fellow in neuropathology at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) of McGill (MDCM, 1945). He returned to Oxford for studies in neuroanatomy (D.Phil, 1949). After training in neurology at the National Hospital, Queen Square, London and in neurosurgery at the MNI (1949-53), Dr. Feindel joined Wilder Penfield in neurosurgical practice and became lecturer in neurosurgery at McGill (1953-55). In 1955 he opened the Department of Neurosurgery at University Hospital, University of Saskatchewan. Here he developed with colleagues Canada's first brain scanner using radioisotopes and pioneered the use of closed circuit TV in epilepsy surgery. In 1959 Dr. Feindel returned to the MNI as the first William Cone Professor of Neurosurgery and founder of the Cone Laboratory for Neurosurgical Research. In 1972, he was named Director of the MNI, Director-General of the Montreal Neurological Hospital and Chairman of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill's Faculty of Medicine. In October 1984, he completed twelve years as Director and returned to full-time neurosurgical practice and research. He focused on the surgical treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy by the Montreal procedure, which he had helped to develop with Wilder Penfield, Herbert Jasper and others in the early 1950s. Among the distinctions accorded Dr. Feindel are honorary doctorates from four Canadian Universities, a member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Officer of the Order of Canada, Grand Officier de l'Ordre national du Québec, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and he was recently named a "Great Montrealer". He has published over 500 articles in scientific and medical journals and authored or edited six books. An annual Lectureship in Neurosurgery at the MNI and an endowed Professorship in Neuro-Oncology at McGill have been established in his name.

About the MNI:

October 2009 marks the 75th anniversary of the MNI. The MNI is a McGill University research and teaching institute, dedicated to the study of the nervous system and neurological diseases. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, the MNI is one of the world's largest institutes of its kind. MNI researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. The MNI, with its clinical partner, the Montreal Neurological Hospital (MNH), part of the McGill University Health Centre, continues to integrate research, patient care and training, and is recognized as one of the premier neuroscience centres in the world. At the MNI, we believe in investing in the faculty, staff and students who conduct outstanding research, provide advanced, compassionate care of patients and who pave the way for the next generation of medical advances. Highly talented, motivated people are the engine that drives research - the key to progress in medical care. A new building, the North Wing Expansion, is currently under construction and will house state-of-the-art brain imaging facilities. Once the construction is completed and the new building is fully equipped, the scientific community focused on brain imaging research at the MNI will be without equivalent anywhere in the world. For more information, please visit


Anita Kar, Montreal Neurological Institute, (514) 398-3376, anita.kar [at]

Contact Information

Anita Kar
Montreal Neurological Institute
anita.kar [at]
Office Phone: 
(514) 398-3376