ACAR announces recipients of 2022 McGill-ZNZ Neuroscience Partnership Grant

The pilot projects foster international collaboration and scientific excellence in neurodevelopmental conditions

McGill University and the University of Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, represented by the Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ), came together in 2021 to create a Joint Pilot Project Grant funding scheme.  The goal is to foster collaborative research and training opportunities in fundamental or clinical research related to neurodevelopmental conditions. 

This year, two 1-year Pilot Project Grants will each receive up to C$25,000 from the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research at The Neuro and CHF19,000 from ZNZ.

“Congratulations to this year’s recipients,” says Stefano Stifani, ACAR’s Associate Director of Fundamental Research.

“We are confident that their proposed research will lead to strengthened synergy between our institutions, and that data generated through these collaborations will fuel researchers in pursuing further comprehensive external research funding.”

Reut Gruber          Reto Huber

Promoting the sleep and learning capacity of autistic youth

Reut Gruber, PhD, McGill (left) and Reto Huber, PhD, ZNZ (right)

Although the association between sleep and cognitive functioning in typically developing youth is well documented, there is little information regarding the association between sleep and cognitive functioning in autistic youth. 

Gruber and Huber aim to collect data supporting the concept that daytime cognitive functioning in autistic youth correlates with modifiable sleep EEG measures. 

"The proposed approach will integrate accrued knowledge, experience and expertise regarding sleep interventions (lab and school-based) for pediatric populations, and in studying sleep – cognition relationships in typically-developing and autistic adolescents. This requires our complementary expertise and therefore is not possible without a joint effort and continuing collaboration between the partner laboratories,” says Gruber. 

“Our continued joint collaborative work is expected to open new, previously unattainable horizons in our ability to optimize cognitive functioning of autistic youth through sleep interventions.”

Sali Farhan          Rhalena Thomas          Edna Grünblatt

Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a single brain cell level

Sali Farhan, PhD, McGill (left), Rhalena Thomas, PhD, McGill (centre), and Edna Grünblatt, PhD, ZNZ (right) 

“Delays in brain maturation are common in ADHD. However, details about changes within the brain cells of individuals with ADHD are unknown,” says Thomas. 

As part of the collaborative project, stem cells generated from the Translational Molecular Psychiatry lab led by Grünblatt will be used to create models for ADHD. 

Using single-cell RNA sequencing, the team will get a transcriptional profile or snapshot of gene expression activity in hundreds of individual cells. 

They will then use sample pooling to get single cell sequencing data from stem cells as they develop into mature brain neurons and analyze the data using software created by Farhan and Thomas with the goal of identifying the differences in transcriptional profiles between ADHD and control cells at the single cell level. 

The partnership between McGill University and the University of Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – as represented by the Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ) – supports international collaborative work and fosters scientific excellence in neurodevelopmental conditions.

For more information, contact:
stefano.stifani [at] (Stefano Stifani) or wknecht [at] (Wolfgang Knecht)



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The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) is a bilingual academic healthcare institution. We are a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high-quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.



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