#IamIPN: Dr. Marie Brossard-Racine


Principal Investigator & Lab Director,
ABCD Research Laboratory (Advances in Brain & Child Development);
Assistant Professor,
School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University;
Associate Member,
Dept. of Pediatrics, Div. of Neonatalogy, and Dept. of Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University

     “[My constant fascination as to how the brain works and adapts in children when learning or overcoming neurodevelopmental difficulties],” is what Dr. Marie-Brossard says to be the motivation behind the creation of the Advances in Brain & Child Development Research laboratory (ABCD Research) in 2015.

     Dr. Brossard-Racine completed her Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Université de Montréal, and continued to pursue her interest in neuroscience by completing her Doctoral degree in Rehabilitation Sciences at McGill University. Right after she finished her undergraduate degree in O.T., Dr. Brossard-Racine began working as a pediatric Occupational Therapist in Montreal. It was her professional experience as an O.T. that made her question the brain’s function in the context of pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders. Her quest to obtain highly specific research findings drove her to complete a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

    In brief, Dr. Brossard-Racine’s current research focuses on better understanding the underlying mechanisms of function and dysfunction in individuals with brain-based disorders from birth to early adulthood, and delineating critical time periods of brain plasticity. Furthermore, Dr. Brossard-Racine and her team are also aiming to discover biomarkers of function in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. These research objectives are being tackled with the use of advanced quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and standardized clinical tests. “We are studying children who are in a period of life that is determined by the unknown. Hence, our research is a longitudinal study; we are conducting studies over the child’s first few years of life, but we will only be able to observe the emergence of neurodevelopmental disorders later on in time,” says Dr. Brossard-Racine. Therefore, mandatory follow-ups and engagement from the study participants and their families are all points to take into account when moving on with the ABCD Research’s projects. 

     What is the long-term objective of the ABCD Research lab? "At the moment, clinicians are unable to diagnose most neurodevelopmental disorders in children before school age. Hence, the ABCD Research team is working to develop new strategies to target at-risk children who are vulnerable to developing brain-based disorders, so that we can implement interventions within the first few years of life,” explains Dr. Brossard-Racine. “[If this plan goes accordingly], our society will have a set of evaluation and interventional strategies to apply to at-risk children in order to optimize their brain and functional outcome, and eventually, to minimize the development of some neurodevelopmental disorders,” confirms Dr. Brossard-Racine. All in all, Dr. Brossard-Racine and her team are striving to accomplish what is necessary to improve the lives of children with neurodevelopmental disorders. The ABCD Research lab's projects are currently supported by funding from CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), FRSQ (Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec), and the U.S. Department of Defense. 

     Apart from being the ABCD Research Lab Director, situated at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center (RI-MUHC) and supervising undergraduate and graduate trainees, Dr. Brossard-Racine keeps herself busy outside of the laboratory as well. She is an avid cyclist, and enjoys spinning and high-intensity interval training. She is also the proud mother of an almost two year-old daughter. When asked which continent she would like to visit in the near future, Dr. Brossard-Racine answers “Oceania” without any hesitation.

Published on March 6, 2019

Written by projects.ipn [at] mcgill.ca (Dhabisha Kohilanathan)

If you are an IPN student or Principal Investigator, and would like to be featured as part of the new #IamIPN narrative series, please e-mail Dhabisha Kohilanathan at projects.ipn [at] mcgill.ca


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