May 2016
The Neuro News is a monthly newsletter highlighting activities at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.



May 2016 - Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Multiple sclerosis treatment and research has long been a focus at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. The Neuro introduced Canada’s first MS clinic and the clinic’s highly specialized staff employs the latest research data and treatment methods in a clinical atmosphere of innovation and progress. Learn more.


The Wounded Brain Healed - The Golden Age of the Montreal Neurological Institute, 1934-1984

"The Wounded Brain Healed " by William Feindel and Richard Leblanc was recently published by McGill Queens University Press.  The book, a labour of love began by Dr. William Feindel, who passed away in January 2014, would not have been completed without the dedication of Dr. Richard Leblanc, as well as numerous private donors and supporters.  Learn more.


Researchers use optogenetics to produce pain relief by shutting off neurons with light

The potential of light as a non-invasive, highly-focused alternative to pain medication was made more apparent thanks to research conducted by Philippe Séguéla and colleagues at the MNI. Researchers bred mice with a light-sensitive trait in peripheral neurons that were known to be responsible for pain transmission. The mice were genetically modified so that these neurons, called Nav 1.8+ nociceptors, express proteins called opsins, which react to light, a process known as optogenetics. Learn more.



Brain responses found to originate from previously unknown source

Dr. Robert Zatorre and colleagues at the MNI have made an important discovery about the human auditory system and how to study it, findings that could lead to better testing and diagnosis of hearing-related disorders.  Emily Coffey, a PhD student with Dr. Zatorre detected frequency-following responses (FFR) coming from a part of the brain not previously known to emit them. FFRs are neural signals generated in the brain when people hear sounds. Learn more.


Medical ethics and end-of-life care

As part of National Health Ethics Week Week in April, Dr. Eugene Bereza, Director of the Centre for Applied Ethics (CAE) of the MUHC, discussed medical ethics and end-of-life care in the media. Watch his interview on CTV news with Mutsumi Takahashi and read the article in the National Post.


Donor Spotlight

The power of philanthropy has been transformational for The Neuro. The philanthropic vision and generosity of our donors has enabled The Neuro to remain at the very forefront of health research and patient care for 8 decades.
Thank you for making a difference!


Portrait of a Pioneer: Brenda Milner’s 65-year Neuro legacy  


When Brenda Milner was a young graduate student beginning her career at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) in 1950, she was given two pieces of advice: “make yourself as useful as you can” and “don't get in anybody's way”.  


After a stellar career of 65 years, more than 20 honorary degrees, numerous academic awards (including the 2014 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience), and an outstanding record of ground-breaking research, it’s safe to say the world-renowned neuropsychologist has surpassed those original, modest benchmarks.


When Milner began working at the MNI, it was at the threshold of a modern era of investigation into the complexities of the brain and the nervous system. These were the heady beginnings of neuroscience and the Neuro was front and centre, pioneering a surgical procedure for patients suffering from epileptic seizures.


“Neuroscience is a great success story and the Neuro is part of that story,” says Milner.


Today, Milner is Dorothy J. Killam Professor at the MNI and professor in the department of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University. She has contributed to enormous advances in helping patients through her discoveries about the brain and memory. Milner’s research has also had a profound influence on the development of tests to treat people with brain disorders resulting from traumatic injury and degenerative diseases, and from psychiatric illness.


As one might expect, Milner brings the same clinical rigour that characterizes her research, to her gift to the Neuro. Her bequest will be directed to the epilepsy program, supporting post-graduate fellowships, a targeted need that she knows will greatly benefit from donor support.

“When you complete your PhD and want to continue your research, it’s really very difficult,” she says.


At 97 years old (Milner attributes her longevity to good genes, a social network, a little exercise and the benefits of bilingualism), she could easily rest – or retire – on her remarkable laurels, but laurel-resting does not suit Milner and she continues to bring the same fervour to her work as she did when she stepped inside the front doors of the Neuro for the first time back in 1950.


“It’s exciting to see the research evolve,” she says.


This year the Annual Brenda Milner Lecture and Neuropsychology Day will be held on May 9.  Dr. Milner will celebrate her 98th birthday in July.


Donate NowThe Neuro relies on our loyal community of donors in order to unlock the mysteries behind some of the most devastating neurological diseases and disorders of our time, and to help the patients and families affected by them. Your donation can make all the difference to the future of neurological care. Please give generously!


Community Connections


MNI participates in the Friends of the MUHC Toonie Challenge

The Friends of the MUHC Toonie Challenge  is back for its fourth annual run, and this year Montreal schools have once again hopped on board to help raise funds for the McGill University Health Centre. So far this year’s Challenge has raised $5400, adding to a cumulative amount of over $42,000.


Graduate students in McGill’s Integrated Program in Neuroscience gave students the opportunity to see neurons under a microscope, and touch a real cow brain.



Scotia Bank Charity Challenge- Raising Funds for the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

On Sunday, April 24, 2016, The Neuro participated for the second year in a row in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge. Over 40 members of The Neuro community, including staff, students, patients and volunteers, took part in the 5k and 21k to show their support.


As of today, thanks to the efforts of our 29 fundraisers and five fundraising teams, over $21,000 has been raised to help advance research and patient care at The Neuro. All donations collected through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge will go towards supporting our exceptional team of nurses, researchers, clinicians, and students who work relentlessly to unravel the mysteries of the brain and to treat those suffering from life-altering neurological disorders.


Although the race is over, it is not too late to get involved in the challenge! You can still help The Neuro reach its goal by making a donation directly to our fundraising page. Contributions to the event are being accepted until Monday, May 23.


Raising funds for the Brain Tumour Program

Terri Morabito and Linda Carnevale, two wonderful volunteers whose families have been affected by brain tumour, visited The Neuro on April 21 with a selection of stylish handbags and accessories at unbeatable prices. Their semi-annual visits are always a big hit with staff, and we sincerely thank them for once again donating proceeds from the sale to help The Neuro’s brain tumour program!


Franco Di Giovanni Fundraiser

The 12th annual Franco Di Giovanni Fundraiser, held on April 9th was once again a marvellous event for an important cause. There were a several individuals from McGill and The Neuro in attendance, including Pam and Rolando Del Maestro and Carlo Santaguida and his wife, as well as members of the Neurosurgical Simulation Lab team. Lina di Giovanni and her team truly outdid themselves and The Neuro is so grateful to her and the community for their efforts to raise funds to support the new Neurosurgical Simulation Research and Training Centre.



News from the Neurosurgical Simulation Research and Training Centre

The Centre is now operational in its new location in the Royal Victoria Hospital Legacy Site, just across the bridge from the MNI.  The centre receives a large number of visitors from all over the world along with residents and neurosurgeons from international centers like John Hopkins, Mount Sinai in New York, the AO Foundation from Zurich Switzerland, Brazil, Hong Kong and from all Quebec centres along with Western, McMaster and Ottawa. Mark Sibthorpe met with the group in preparation for a report entitled Gamification of business processes resulted on growing to 10 million users within 4 years. Learn more.


In Focus


Dr. Martin Veilleux

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Martin Veilleux has agreed to become Director of the EEG Laboratory at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and Clinical Leader, Epilepsy, Neuroscience mission, MUHC, succeeding Dr. Francois Dubeau.  The appointment is effective immediately.


Dr. Martin Veilleux is an Assistant Professor in Neurology at the Montreal Neurological Institute and a staff neurologist at the Montreal General Hospital and Montreal Neurological Hospital. Dr. Veilleux obtained his MD (1979) from the Université de Sherbrooke. He then completed both his internship and Medicine residency at the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) and the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal between 1980 and 1981. Dr. Veilleux completed his neurology training at the CHUS in 1983, and went to do neurophysiology fellowship at Mayo Clinic (1983- 1986).


Please join us in thanking Dr. Dubeau for his work and dedication and in welcoming Dr. Veilleux to his new position.


Celebrating our Volunteers :  A chance to give back

April 10-16 was National Volunteer Week, a chance to recognize volunteers and thank them for the countless ways they contribute to our society.


Volunteers have been a critical part of the Neuro’s success for more than 8 decades. They help the Neuro by providing expert counsel, fundraising, visiting patients, and spreading awareness about the Neuro and brain research in general, among many other things. During the week, we highlighted just a few of the many volunteers, both past and current, who help us do what we do on our website and on Facebook.


Thanks to all Neuro volunteers for your efforts.  Learn more about volunteering


Congratulations to ...


BrainReach Awarded First Prize by the CAN Advocacy Committee for Outreach!

The IPN would like to congratulate the BrainReach team for winning the Canadian Association of Neuroscience Advocacy Committee Award for “best student initiative promoting neuroscience to the public”. As the CAN Advocacy Committee wrote, the Committee “was especially impressed by your level of organization, the number of students you reach every year, and its availability outside of big urban centres… BrainReach McGill is an impressive group of neuroscience advocates and ambassadors, and we want to congratulate you for your efforts. CAN is very proud to present you with this prize."


From L to R: Dr. Josephine Nalbantoglu (Dean, GPS), Kelly Smart (BrainReach North), Maxime Robert (BrainReach High School), and Falisha Karpati (BrainReach Elementary).


Raphael Hotter, a local High School student, contributed to the discovery of a novel method with potential to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease.  Raphael was mentored by Dr. Gassan Massarweh, Director of the MNI’s Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Facility.  Hotter, a teen scientist from Montreal with aspirations of becoming a neurosurgeon, is working on the development of a radioactive drug that can be used in conjunction with PET scan technologies to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases. The student at Herzliah High School in Côte-des-Neiges won the Montreal Neurological Institute Award, the Order of Chemistry Award, and the Highest Distinction Award at a Montreal regional science fair, and was one of fifteen projects chosen to represent Montreal at the upcoming provincial fair in April. This will be Hotter’s second time attending the provincial competition after winning the Quebec gold medal in 2015.



Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Student Essay Awardees. Dr. Del Maestro and his wife, Pam endowed these awards last year.  Awardees are announced each year at the Osler Banquet.


Neda Ladbon Bernasconi and Chris Pack who were each awarded FRQS Chercheurs-boursiers – Senoir in the most recent competition.  Results







Rolando Del Maestro who received a "Man of the Year Award" from the Valtarese Foundation of New York on April 3rd. This award was given for a lifetime of work for brain tumor patients including being one of the three founding members of the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, training of many of Canada's leading neurosurgeons in the Neuro-Oncology field and research including our innovative present studies in neurosurgical simulation.







In Memoriam


John Edward Blundell M.D., (Cambridge) M.R.C.P., (Lond.) F.R.C.S. (Eng.), born in London, England October 2, 1920 to schoolteachers Ethel and Henry Blundell, passed away Saturday, April 2, 2016 in Montreal. Predeceased by older brother Philip, wife Betty (nee Ball) and son Jeremy, Dr Blundell leaves to mourn daughters Jennifer (Gerald) and Cathy (George), and many friends and colleagues. Dr Blundell had an illustrious career spanning more than 30 years in Canada, the United States, England and Austria. His early career took him to roles as Staff surgeon for the Royal Army Medical Corps during WWII in the 48th British General hospital in Graz, Austria, to a Fellowship in Neurosurgery at the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago in 1955. It was during this time he was recruited by Dr Wilder Penfield to move to Montreal instead, where he was elected Assistant neurosurgeon at the Montreal Neurological Institute and lecturer in neurosurgery at McGill University in 1958. This was followed shortly thereafter by his appointment in October 1961 as Founding Director of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Montreal Children's Hospital, where he remained until his retirement 1990.  Source.

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro, is a unique academic medical centre dedicated to neuroscience. Founded in 1934, The Neuro is recognized internationally for integrating research, compassionate patient care and advanced training, all key to advances in science and medicine. The Neuro is a research and teaching institute of McGill University and forms the basis for the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre.  For more information, visit


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