McGill-Western Initiative for Translational Neuroscience (ITN)

McGill-Western Initiative for Translational Neuroscience (ITN) logo

Brain diseases are the leading cause of disability in Canadians with more than 3.6 million Canadians affected by a brain condition. With an aging population, new treatments are desperately needed.

Two of the world’s most accomplished neuroscience research initiatives at McGill and Western University have combined their expertise to convert scientific research to societal impact.

The McGill-Western Initiative for Translational Neuroscience (ITN) brings together world-renowned scientists to work on two large-scale research projects focusing on biotherapeutics and Parkinson’s Disease. This collaborative work will have immediate impact for patients living with brain diseases and disorders in Canada and around the world.

The ITN is supported by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) through Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives and Western’s BrainsCAN initiatives.

ITN Scientific Directors

  • Dr. Alan Evans, PhD, FRSC (McGill)
  • Dr. Ravi Menon, PhD, FCAHS, FRSC (Western)
  • Dr. Lisa Saksida, PhD, FCAHS, FRSC (Western)

Funded Projects

Translating epilepsy neuroimaging biomarkers into the operating room

This project aims to improve epilepsy surgery by translating advanced MRI biomarkers into the operating room for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. Using high- and ultra-high field neuroimaging at McGill and Western, the team will create personalized brain maps and identify surgical targets. By integrating these maps into surgical navigation tools, this innovative neuroinformatics workflow seeks to provide a more precise and personalized approach, potentially improving seizure control and the overall well-being of patients. 

Principal investigators:








Boris Bernhardt, McGill University (left); Jonathan Lau, Western University (right)

Project start date: March 1, 2024
Project end date: February 28, 2026

Total HBHL contribution: $291,500
Total BrainsCAN contribution: $261,500

Non-invasive neurostimulation guided by circuit models for suppressing epileptiform activity

This project aims to explore the use of transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), a non-invasive method that modulates cortical circuits, as a potential treatment for suppressing epileptiform activity in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. By combining insights from recent studies on the effects of tES on neural spiking activity (Pack) and computational models of brain activity patterns (Muller), this project aims to develop a novel technology that could significantly impact clinical practices in epilepsy treatment within the next few years, avoiding the need for invasive brain surgery. 

Principal investigators:








Christopher Pack, McGill University (left); Lyle Muller, Western University (right)

Project start date: March 1, 2024
Project end date: February 28, 2025

Total HBHL contribution: $189,153
Total BrainsCAN contribution: $80,000

Impaired tRNA Function in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with limited treatment options. This project focuses on the role of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) in ALS, small molecules that play a crucial role in cellular function. By studying impaired tRNA function in ALS, the project aims to identify genetic factors increasing the risk of developing the disease. This research will translate into a novel assessment tool for ALS risk and serve as a biomarker to evaluate potential treatments. The methodologies developed can also be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

Principal investigators:






From the left: Sali Farhan, McGill University; Thomas Durcan, McGill University; Martin Duennwald, Western University

Project start date: January 1, 2024
Project end date: December 31, 2025

Total HBHL contribution: $400,000
Total BrainsCAN contribution: $255,000

Early biomarkers for development and monitoring of effective disease-modifying therapies

In this project, the collaborative team will develop a platform for early drug evaluation that focuses on unique imaging and cognitive biomarkers. Using a platform that works in the preclinical phase, this method will increase the likelihood that early findings will translate to the clinic. These biomarkers will also help identify patients who may benefit most from specific types of drugs.

Principal investigators: 

Professional headshot of Mallar ChakravartyProfessional headshot of Marco Prado








Mallar Chakravarty, McGill University (left); Marco Prado, Western University (right)

Project start date: April 1, 2022
Project end date: March 31, 2025

Total HBHL contribution: $1,722,000
Total BrainsCAN contribution: $2,034,000

Early biomarkers to improve diagnostic workup in Parkinson's Disease

To better understand the areas of the brain most affected by Parkinson’s Disease, this project will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify the disease's biomarkers. These biomarkers will help to better diagnose Parkinson’s, reduce a patient’s wait time for a diagnosis and make it easier to measure the disease’s progression.

Principal investigators:

Professional headshot of Alain Dagher   Professional headshot of Penny MacDonald







Alain Dagher, McGill University (left); Penny MacDonald, Western University (right)

Project start date: April 1, 2022
Project end date: August 17, 2023

Total HBHL contribution: $426,000
Total BrainsCAN contribution: $322,000

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