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



April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

The Neuro – A Major Force in Parkinson’s Disease Research and Treatment

For many years, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has conducted studies that have led to a greater understanding of the nature of Parkinson’s disease (PD). About 100,000 Canadians have PD, a motor neuron disease generally associated with old age, but which can also appear in a person’s thirties or forties. Characteristic symptoms include tremor, rigidity and gait dysfunction as well as mood and sleep disorders, and cognitive degeneration. Learn more.


Teens test their smarts in the Brain Bee

Fifty students from nine Montreal area high schools assembled at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital on March 15th to be quizzed about synapses, axons and other cerebral facts in the international contest known as the Brain Bee. The winner will go on to the Canadian National Brain Bee at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. The national winner travels to Denmark for the International Brain Bee. Learn more.


The Neuro enrolls Canada’s first patient in a new clinical trial for the treatment of brain tumours

Dr. Kevin Petrecca, William Feindel Chair in NeuroOncology at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, enrolled and treated Canada’s first patient in a new clinical trial for patients with first or second recurrence of glioblastoma or anaplastic astrocytoma who are undergoing resection.  “Brain tumors are extremely challenging to treat, and with 27 Canadians diagnosed each day there is an urgent need for new therapies,” said Dr. Petrecca. “This trial using cancer-selective gene therapy is the kind of cutting-edge investigational treatment that we want to offer patients at our site – the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical center in Canada. Our team is thrilled to be the first site to open the Toca 5 study in Canada.” Learn more.


Purple Day for Epilepsy, March 26

Saturday, March 26 was Purple Day, a time to recognize the effect epilepsy has on millions of people around the world. It is estimated that 1 in a 100 people worldwide have epilepsy. Of those, one in three require surgery to prevent a lifetime of seizures.  Purple Day was created in 2008 by Cassidy Megan, a girl from Nova Scotia, to get people talking about epilepsy in an effort to dispel myths and inform those with seizures that they are not alone.

For almost 60 years, The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre - The Neuro- has been at the forefront of epilepsy treatment and research. The Neuro’s founder, Dr. Wilder Penfield, and his colleagues developed the “Montreal Procedure,” which revolutionized the surgical treatment for epilepsy. Thanks to this procedure, many thousands of epilepsy patients became free of seizures. The Neuro also pioneered the use of electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the study and treatment of epilepsy. Learn more.


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!


$4 million from the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Foundation for research on intellectual disabilities


The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital is very gratified to announce an exceptional $4‑million commitment from the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Foundation. Their donation will be used to establish the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Intellectual Disability Research Program. This gift represents the largest single philanthropic donation made in Canada in support of research on intellectual disabilities.


This remarkable show of support will enable The Neuro to enlist the services of expert clinicians and researchers for the common goal of finding all about this condition and making it possible to improve the resources and therapies currently available for people with an intellectual disability and their families.


According to the most recent statistics, intellectual disability is estimated to affect over 240,000 adults and children in Quebec, some 3% of the population. With the support of the generosity of the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Foundation, investigators at The Neuro will be in a position to advance understanding of the root causes and genetic origins of intellectual disability, and identify new biomarkers for the diagnosis of disorders and the development of new treatments.


“When we founded this unique and very promising program at The Neuro, we were inspired by our son Jonathan. Through this contribution, our sincere aspiration is to give hope to patients and their families affected by intellectual disability in Quebec,” stated Sandra Chartrand, President of the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Foundation, and Alain Bouchard, Founder & Executive Chairman of the Board of Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.


“We are in the middle of a paradigm shift that is revolutionizing our understanding of intellectual disability, and our progress will depend on a continuum of work ranging from experimental to translational neuroscience. The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has the expertise we need and is the ideal site to make this project a reality,” indicated Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. “The worldwide therapeutic potential of this initiative to improve the quality of life of patients grappling with intellectual disability is immense. On behalf of all scientific researchers dedicated to this very worthwhile cause, I sincerely thank everyone in the Bouchard family for their inspirational generosity.”


What do you think?

As valued members of our dedicated community of donors and volunteers, we always appreciate your feedback. We therefore would like to ask for your cooperation in filling out a short, online questionnaire, which was created by a student in Management Sciences at UQAM as part of her master’s thesis.


You can fill out the questionnaire by following this link.  


By completing this questionnaire, you will help us to better understand why you support The Neuro and what steps we can take to better communicate with you. Your participation will also help advance the field of philanthropy in Quebec by shedding light on how management techniques impact donor loyalty and relationships. Please note that your answers to the questionnaire will be kept completely anonymous and confidential and that none of your personal information has been shared with this student.


Thank you in advance for your participation!


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


Scotiabank Charity Challenge

On Sunday, April 24, 2016, The Neuro will, once again, participate in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge! This annual fundraising event, held in conjunction with the Banque Scotia 21k de Montréal et 5k, allows participants to raise funds in support of The Neuro.


We invite all our faculty, staff and supporters to run, walk, or roll for The Neuro by registering in the 2016 Scotiabank Charity Challenge! Help us reach our goal of $35,000 and sign up today!


Elementary school students raise over $4,000 to support brain tumour research

March is Brain Tumour Awareness Month, and elementary students at Leonardo Da Vinci Academy marked the occasion during the school’s annual Brain Awareness Week, which took place from March 7 to 11. Through week-long dress down days and popcorn sales, an exceptional $4,089 was collected by staff and students to benefit brain tumour research at The Neuro! Leonardo Da Vinci Academy has been a loyal supporter of The Neuro for over a decade, donating proceeds from their annual dress down days to help advance this important cause. Thanks to the dedication of their staff and students, this year’s fundraiser was their most successful yet. Congratulations!


To complement Brain Awareness Week, several classrooms at Leonardo Da Vinci Academy will be visited by volunteer presenters from McGill’s BrainReach program, so that they can learn more about the brain’s functions, its role in overall health, and its relationship to emotion, memory, and the five senses.


International Collaborations and Partnerships


Groupe Yellow – enabling international collaboration and Brain Repair Research

Thanks to the generosity of Groupe Yellow, the MNI and Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge Brain Repair Collaboration now have four collaborative projects that promote research and training exchanges.

  • Rgm-Neogenin signaling in the control of oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination, Jean-Francois Cloutier (MNI)/Robin Franklin (Cambridge)
  • Intrinsic regulators of neuronal trafficking and axon regeneration, James Fawcett (Cambridge)/Alyson Fournier (MNI)
  • Investigate the contribution of netrin-1 to proteoglycan and perineuronal net function in the adult CNS, Tim Kennedy (MNI)/Jessica Kwok (Cambridge/Leeds)
  • Derivation of respiratory motor neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cells for the study of motor neuron diseases, Stefano Pluchino (Cambridge)/Stefano Stifani (MNI)

MEG joins international initiative

The MNI’s Magnetoencephalography (MEG) Unit recently joined the Brain Imaging Data Structure International Initiative (Stanford, UCL, UC Berkeley, Cambridge, etc).  The goal is to harmonize the organization of shareable data repositories across labs, users and databases. This partnership will aid in preparation for the imaging aspects of the MNI Biobank.


Recent visits to the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

  • Dr Takahisa Taguchi, Vice-Director, Center for Information and Neural Networks (Osaka) - March 17
  • Visit to the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre
  • Marie Lemay, Deputy Minister and President, Economic Development Agency (Canada), Québec Region – February 4, 2016
  • Marc Miller, MP Ville-Marie, Le Sud Ouest, Ile-des-Soeurs - March 16


In Focus




Dr. Lesley Fellows was recently appointed to the newly created position of Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. This appointment, reporting to the Vice-Dean, Academic Affairs, was effective as of March 1, 2016.

As Assistant Dean, Dr. Fellows will be responsible for developing and implementing a Faculty-wide mentoring program for basic scientists, clinician-scientists and clinician-educators. She will establish programs and networks to support faculty wellness. Additionally, she will assist the VP-Dean and Vice-Dean, Academic Affairs, in ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and conduct are maintained in both campus and clinical teaching settings.

Dr. Fellows’ research at the MNI focuses on understanding the basis of complex human behaviour, with a particular emphasis on the brain’s frontal-executive functions and decision-making. She also studies the loss of control over behaviour that contributes to drug addiction and obesity, as well as cognitive impairment in medical and neurological disorders. She established a novel research resource, the McGill Cognitive Neuroscience Research Registry, a database of individuals with focal brain injury that supports research on the neural substrates of human cognition. She has published over 170 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, reviews and abstracts. Learn more.


Dr. Anne Louise Lafontaine was recently appointed Associate Chair – Neurology, Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University.  Dr. Lafontaine is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University and Director and co-founder of the McGill Movement Disorder Clinic, which is a designated centre of excellence by the National Parkinson Foundation. Dr. Lafontaine obtained her MSc in biostatistics and epidemiology from McGill and her MD at McMaster University. She then did her residency in neurology at McGill before completing a fellowship in movement disorders at the University of Calgary.


Dr. Kevin Petrecca was recently appointed Associate Chair – Neurosurgery, Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University.  Dr. Petrecca has been Chief, Department of Neurosurgery at the MUHC since November 2014, and holds an FRQS clinician-scientist salary award. He is a member of the Neuroscience Executive Team and the Cedars Cancer Institute Advisory Board, and is also Director of the Neuro-Oncology Clinical Trials Program at McGill University.  In addition, Dr. Petrecca leads an active research program at The Neuro’s Brain Tumour Research Centre. His lab focuses on discovering mechanisms that regulate brain cancer development, differentiation, invasion and resistance to treatment. His surgical research aims to develop and validate novel technologies to optimize glioma surgery.  


Dr. Andrea Bernasconi was recently appointed Group Leader, Epilepsy, succeeding Dr. Jean Gotman.  Dr. Bernasconi is a native of Switzerland, where he earned his medical degree and undertook training in neurology and electrophysiology. He has been at the MNI for two decades and directs the Neuroimaging of Epilepsy Lab in the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre. He is an attending neurologist on the Epilepsy Service. Andrea’s research is devoted to the investigation of causes and consequences of drug-resistant epilepsy using novel MR acquisition and processing techniques. Methods developed in his lab allow unveiling brain lesions undetected by conventional MRI, thus leading to major improvements in the management and quality of care of patients who undergo epilepsy surgery.




Marc Lemieux (Manager Clinical Research Unit) - Jewish General Hospital Clinical Research Program (February 2016)


Miriam Kovasevic retired after 19 years as Research Technician (Cyclotron Unit) on March 1, 2016. 



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 theneuro.ca.


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