Building on its worldwide reputation as a leader in neuroscience research, McGill University today joined with two leading Swiss research institutions – the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) – to enhance neuroscience research in a host of areas, in fields that include pain therapy, Alzheimer’s disease, synapse modelling and repair, neuroimmunology and genetic mechanisms of brain diseases.
The collaboration, backed by $200,000 in annual funding for three years, will see the institutions exchange scientists, develop research projects, establish fellowships for exchanges of graduate students, provide seed money for pilot studies and hold workshops into a variety of neuroscience research areas.
The two Swiss institutions form the Neuroscience Center of Zurich (ZNZ), which brings together 440 neuroscientists in clinical and basic science research. Established in 1998, the ZNZ is one of the first international programs of graduate studies of neuroscience in Europe.
“We are delighted to advance our cutting-edge neuroscience research through an international partnership with a leading network of neuroscience researchers,” said McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum who, accompanied by Dr. Rémi Quirion, Vice-Dean (Science and Strategic Initiatives) in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, signed the memorandum of understanding in Switzerland. “Over the past years, McGill has developed significant agreements with a number of important centres of neuroscience research providing new impetus for advances in this crucial area of medical care..”
In the last 100 years Zurich scientists have contributed significantly to research on the nervous system, including work by such leaders in the field as Auguste Forel, Constantin von Monakow, Walter Rudolf Hess and Konrad Akert.
McGill’s history as a leader in neuroscience research, from the legendary Wilder Penfield’s establishment of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, is also widely known. Its pioneering contributions are exemplified by Penfield’s maps of the sensory and motor cortices of the brain; Donald Hebb’s hypothesis of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity; Brenda Milner’s work on the mechanisms of memory; Juda Hirsch Quastel’s studies in neurochemistry; Heinz Edgar Lehmann’s pharmacological treatment of schizophrenia; Theodore Sourkes’s proposal of dopamine replacement therapy in Parkinson’s disease; Kris Krnejevic’s work in chemical transmission; Ronald Melzack’s “gate control” theory of pain and Albert Aguayo’s demonstration of the potential capacity for re-growth of CNS axons, to name a few.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for us,” Dr. Quirion said. “The Swiss neuroscience research centre is at the forefront of where we are headed in better understanding the brain and the central nervous system. Together with our interdisciplinary Brain@McGill program, we will have the opportunity to make significant advancements in research that will end up improving the lives of millions around the world.”