Centre for Research in Neuroscience

The Centre for Research in Neuroscience has nine research groups, each led by a Principal Investigator.

The CRN in recent years has launched physiological, genetic, molecular and cellular studies into neural degeneration and re-growth. It has also expanded its focus to include issues of axon guidance, synapse formation and neurodegenerative disorders.

Here is a list of faculty members currently conducting research at the Centre for Research in Neuroscience.   Follow the links to read about each investigator's research interests, publications and the work being done in their laboratory.


Research:    Neurophysiology Of Osmoregulation

The Bourque lab studies how the mammalian brain monitors the ratio of salt to water (fluid osmolality) via special neurons called osmoreceptors. We are interested in how mechanosensitive ion channels and neuro-glial interactions allow osmoreceptors to detect changes in extracellular fluid osmolality. We are also interested in how synaptic signals distributed in central osmoregulatory circuits mediate changes in behavior (thirst, salt appetite), hormone release and autonomic function to adjust blood pressure, blood volume and fluid osmolality. 

Tel.: 514-934-8094
E-mail:  charles.bourque [at] mcgill.ca


Research:    Dystrophin Associated Proteins in Synapse Formation and Muscular Dystrophy

Dystrophin is a cytoskeletal protein that is linked to dystroglycan in the plasma membrane to form the functional core of a larger, supramolecular complex that is expressed in muscle, brain and other tissues. Mutations in dystrophin and dystroglycan result in muscular dystrophies as well as in defects in neuromuscular synapses. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which results from mutations in the dystrophin gene, often is accompanied by some mental retardation.  

Tel.: 514-937-6011 ext. 44237
E-mail:  sal.carbonetto [at] mcgill.ca


Research:     How to build a brain
Lab:     brianchenlab.mcgill.ca

My research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of how neural circuits wire up with precision. One of the central puzzles in neuroscience is how a neuron chooses the correct synaptic contacts during development when faced with tens of thousands of potential targets. To uncover the different molecules and strategies neurons use to self-assemble into a neural circuit, my lab combines high-resolution imaging techniques with advanced molecular genetics in different model systems to look inside living animals while their neurons form synapses.

Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 42379
E-mail:  brian.chen [at] mcgill.ca (brian.chen @ mcgill.ca)


Research:  (1) CNS and Peripheral Nerve Injury (2) Multiple Sclerosis (3) Neurodegenerative Disease.CNS and Peripheral Nerve Injury.   CNS: This work is focused on understanding the cellular changes and molecular mechanisms that trigger, as well as, switch off inflammation after CNS (spinal cord) and peripheral nerve injuries.   Multiple Sclerosis: Our work on MS deals with the role of the phospholipase A2 (PLA2) family in the onset and progression of CNS autoimmune disease in mice called experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE).  Neurodegenerative Disease: This work focuses on the role of the ferroxidases in preventing iron accumulation and iron-mediated free radical injury in the CNS. Lack of these enzymes results in iron deposition and neurodegeneration in the CNS.

Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 4240
Email: sdavid11 [at] po-box.mcgill.ca


Research:  Regulation of synaptic morphology and function

Synapses are specialized sites of cell to cell attachment that are critical for neural cell communication. Information is stored in the brain by creating, remodeling, and modifying the effectiveness of synapses. Recently, the diversity of molecules that are localized at excitatory synapses has begun to be revealed. These proteins (cell surface, scaffolding, and signaling molecules) are networked together and establish the structural framework of the synapse. Many of these proteins are critical for synaptic transmission and/or long-term synaptic plasticity. 

Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 43477
Email: keith.murai [at] mcgill.ca


Research:  Axonal guidance and neuronal target selection

The first project in my lab is to study the molecular mechanism of axonal guidance and target recognition in the fly visual system. During embryonic development, axons can travel over relatively long distances and form precise connections with their target cells. The proper guidance and targeting of an axon rely on its ability to receive guidance signals from the surrounding environment and subsequently convert the signals into directed motility. Using a combination of biochemical, molecular and genetic approaches, we have identified several important genes required for axonal guidance and targeting.

Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 42520
Email: yong.rao [at] mcgill.ca


Research:  TNFα Regulation of Synaptic Plasticity and Neuronal Function

We are studying the role of the pro-inflammatory cytokine Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNFα), a molecule principally characterized in the immune system, in the regulation of synaptic transmission. TNFα has an intrinsic neuronal function as it, through the alteration of receptor trafficking, acts as a glia-released mediator of homeostatic synaptic scaling, an important form of synaptic plasticity. Further, TNFα regulates the surface expression of calcium-permeable glutamate receptors, which will greatly increase a neuron's vulnerability to excitotoxicity, one of the major causes of cell death following neural trauma.

Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 42806
Email: david.stellwagen [at] mcgill.ca


Research:   Genetic Analysis of Nervous System Development

The overall objective of research in our laboratory is to understand molecular and organizational principles that underlie the assembly of functional neural circuits during development. Our research program is divided into two primary themes that focus on 1) the importance of neuron-glial interactions during development, and 2) the patterned growth and guidance of axons and dendrites. We are also interested in how perturbations of these processes contribute to neurological diseases, and how improved understanding of the underlying mechanisms can be used to promote repair in the injured or diseased CNS.

Tel.: 514-934-1934 ext. 42995
Email: don.vanmeyel [at] mcgill.ca