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Toward a better understanding of the brain

Published: 3 Jul 2009

With The Brain@McGill, the University launches its knowledge into the public arena As the organ most central to our being, the brain and its functions have presented an inexhaustible series of challenges for scientists. Whether we are making decisions, enjoying music or enduring pain, the brain governs and influences most of our reactions.

With The Brain@McGill, the University launches its knowledge into the public arena

As the organ most central to our being, the brain and its functions have presented an inexhaustible series of challenges for scientists. Whether we are making decisions, enjoying music or enduring pain, the brain governs and influences most of our reactions.

For close to a century, McGill University and its researchers have made major advances in our understanding of the brain. A world leader in the field of neuroscience, the institution is launching a new era with The Brain@McGill, an initiative based on interdisciplinarity and the transmission of knowledge.

“The brain is at the very core of human activity,” said Rémi Quirion, Vice-Dean for Science and Strategic Initiatives at the Faculty of Medicine and Senior Advisor on Health Sciences Research at McGill University. With The Brain@McGill, we hope to reach out to the general public and raise awareness of our most fascinating discoveries. Our research finds many applications in the cultural and economic domains that sometimes go unrecognized."

Building on the strength of the McGill network in neurosciences, which includes the Montréal Neurological Institute, the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and the McGill University Health Centre, The Brain@McGill will unite some 200 researchers and 275 graduate and postgraduate students.

The initiative entails the development of projects that will allow scientists to take advantage of popular events on the Montréal cultural scene in order to communicate information concerning their research work and to collaborate with key sectors of the local economy, including the aerospace and video-game industries.

The Brain@McGill also involves setting up interdisciplinary teams to study manifestations of brain functions in everyday life. For example, the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS) – a joint initiative of McGill and the Université de Montréal – studies how the structures and functions of our nervous system influence the way in which we perceive or learn music, among other things. Other teams will work on improving the understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases or pain. Another initiative, “Brain to Society,” by a group of researchers from the faculties of management, law, and medicine will explore the links between mental health and the economy.

"By drawing upon the many varied areas of expertise in its network, McGill will be able to make even more rapid progress in its research in areas that are constantly evolving," concluded Dr. Quirion, who is also Executive Director of the International Collaborative Research Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Scientific Director of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Research Centre.

This initiative also seeks to increase the number of partnerships with foreign higher education institutions. The first exchange program established under this component – with Oxford University – was unveiled today.

About McGill University

McGill University, founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, is Canada’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 34,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 160 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,000 francophones – with more than 6,400 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.

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