November No Brain Research Centre November e news Our by hubeybrown


									November 2008 – No 21                                                                        Brain Research Centre

                              November 2008 e-news

 Our newsletter provides members and friends with regular, concise updates on the key issues and stories related
 to the Brain Research Centre. If you wish to submit an item for inclusion in the newsletter or have any comments,
 please email

 1.    Common epilepsy drug found to block formation of Alzheimer’s plaques
 2.    Mechanisms regulating cerebral blood flow uncovered
 3.    New developmental brain disorder discovered
 4.    Heart and Stroke Foundation hosts Caring Hearts Circle Event
 5.    Upcoming events
 6.    Member update
 7.    Awards
 8.    Awards funding
 9.    Distinctions
 10.   Media coverage
 11.   Newsletter credits

 Common epilepsy drug found to block formation of Alzheimer’s plaques
                             Weihong Song recently discovered that a drug used to treat epilepsy and bipolar
                             disorders blocks the formation of plaques that cause Alzheimer's disease (AD) in
                             animal models. He found that if Valproic Acid (VPA) is used as a treatment in early
                             stages of AD, memory deficit is reversed.
                             The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, reveals that VPA works
                             by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme that produces a neurotoxic protein called beta
                             amyloid. In doing so, plaque formation is discontinued. Amyloid beta-proteins are the
                             central component of neurotoxic plaques in AD.
                             These results will help inform the design of human clinical trials because researchers
 VPA reduces plaque
 formation (bottom image)
                             now understand the mechanisms and pathology of VPA in AD animal models. A small
 compared to no treatment    clinical trial in humans is currently underway in China, and results are expected to be
 (top image).                available next year.
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 Mechanisms regulating cerebral blood flow uncovered
                              Brian MacVicar, together with postdoctoral fellows Grant Gordon and Hyun Choi
                              and graduate student Ravi Rungta, recently discovered the mechanism by which
                              astrocytes – a type of brain cell – regulate cerebral blood flow, opening new avenues
                              for explorations of treatments for stroke and vascular dementia.
                              They found that brain metabolism and the level of brain activity regulate whether
                              astrocytes constrict or dilate blood vessels, thereby altering blood flow. The
 Clockwise from top right:    regulation of blood flow within the brain is important for normal brain functioning.
 Hyun Choi, Ravi Rungta,
 Grant Gordon, and Brian       The findings of the study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
 MacVicar.                     (CIHR) were published in Nature and build on Dr. MacVicar’s discovery in 2004 that
 astrocytes have a primary role in regulating brain blood flow. While it has long been known that higher brain
 activity leads to greater cerebral blood circulation, the mechanisms for how this was possible remained unclear.
 Using tools developed by a researcher at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadephia, Dr. MacVicar and
 his team showed that as brain activity increases and oxygen in the blood is consumed, astrocytes no longer
 constrict blood vessels, and instead dilate them in order to increase blood flow. This allows blood supply in the

November 2008                                                          BRAIN RESEARCH CENTRE e-news
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 brain to be directed to areas of high activity to maintain the health of nerve cells.
 These findings are significant because it brings researchers one step closer to developing treatments for when
 brain blood flow is altered and unrelated to metabolic activity, such as after a stroke or in some forms of dementia.
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 New developmental brain disorder discovered
                                Jason Barton, his postdoctoral fellow Giuseppe Iaria, and colleagues recently
                                documented the first case of a patient who, without apparent brain damage or
                                cognitive impairment, is unable to orient within any environment. They also believe
                                that there are many others in the general population who may be affected by this
                                developmental topographical disorder.
                                The study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, used functional magnetic
                                resonance imaging (fMRI) together with behavioural studies to assess and
 An fMRI of the hippocampus
                                characterize the navigational deficiencies of the patient, who is completely unable to
 (shown in colour) in the       orient within the environment, getting lost even within the neighbourhood where they
 brain.                         have lived for many years.
 Navigating and orienting in an environment are complex cognitive skills, involving parts of the brain used for
 memory, attention, perception, and decision-making. It also requires using at least two distinct types of memory
 systems. The procedural memory system involves using landmarks, distances, or following stereotyped
 movements to move between locations. The spatial memory system is more complex. When moving through an
 environment – familiar or not – a person creates a mental representation of the environment, called a cognitive
 map. It is the ability to “create” and “read” these cognitive maps that enables a person to navigate.
 Brain malformations or lesions in parts of the brain important for navigation are known to cause navigation
 difficulties. However, no such defects or lesions in the patient's brain were detected. Moreover, a series of
 behavioural tests revealed that the patient's problem was due to a specific inability to form cognitive maps.
 Drs. Iaria and Barton are now reaching out to the public with a website specifically designed to inform people
 about orientation skills and reach others who experience topographical disorientation. This will help them to better
 understand the disorder and to develop rehabilitation treatments that may help affected individuals develop
 orientation skills. More information is available at
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 Heart and Stroke Foundation hosts Caring Hearts Circle event
                                Every year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon provides funding to
                                numerous Brain Research Centre trainees and investigators. The Foundation is able
                                to provide these funds as a result of generous donations from individuals,
                                organizations, and corporations. Forming a special group, called the Caring Hearts
                                Circle, are donors who have given $1,000 or more in the past year. On November 4,
                                2008, the Foundation hosted a visit and tour of the Brain Research Centre for
                                members of this special group so they could see first-hand what activities and
                                projects their gifts have funded.
 Dr. Lara Boyd (standing)
 stimulates the brain of her    Lara Boyd gave a demonstration of her Magstim Bistim 2 Transcranial Magnetic
 graduate student Meghan        Stimulator and Brain Sight System, and Dustin Hines and Grant Gordon, trainees
 Linsdell.                      with Brian MacVicar, explained the scope of their research. Max Cynader also led
 Photo credit: Michelle Moses   participants on a tour of the labs of Brian MacVicar and Yu Tian Wang. The event
                                concluded with a reception in the Conference Centre.
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 Upcoming events
 The Neuroscience Extravaganza, an annual poster competition for neuroscience students and postdoctoral
 fellows, takes place on Thursday, December 4, 2008. There are two categories this year: Cellular & Molecular
 and Systems & Behaviour. The deadline to register is 5:00pm on Thursday, November 27, 2008. Details on
 registration are available at Late registrations will not be accepted!
 As always, there are plenty of events taking place at the Brain Research Centre on a regular basis. Check out for schedules for the following events:
 •  Neuroscience Research Colloquia,
 •  Neuroscience Grand Rounds,
 •  Journal club meetings and seminars,
 •  and more!
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 Member update
 Recent additions include:
                   Ismail Hafez, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, UBC – Dr. Hafez designs and
                   characterizes advanced lipid-based delivery systems used for in vivo delivery of siRNA. As
                   well, he seeks to determine the mechanism of action of a novel class of cationic lipids used to
                   formulate lipid nanoparticles that show unprecedented efficacy in pre-clinical animal disease
                   models. He is also the recipient of a Human Frontiers Science Program Young Investigator
                   Grant to develop novel fluorescent probes to highlight the real-time activity of endogenous
                   neuronal receptors.
                   Antony Hodgson, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UBC – Dr. Hodgson’s research is
                   centred around human neuromotor control and medical robotics, with a focus on both
                   orthopaedic and laparoscopic surgery. He investigates how the brain represents and controls
                   arm movements, as well as the implications for rehabilitation and for robot design. In addition,
                   he is interested in how to improve the dexterity of laparoscopic surgeons, potentially through
                   using robotic or teleoperated devices, and how to improve the accuracy of fitting of knee

                   Andis Klegeris, Department of Biology, UBC Okanagan – Dr. Klegeris investigates ways of
                   protecting neurons from age-related deterioration. He explores the inflammatory responses in
                   the human nervous system, which are believed to contribute to neuronal death observed in
                   many diseases. His research is also focused on developing cellular assays that could be used
                   to study interactions between neurons and glia (non-neuronal cells).

                   Tony Traboulsee, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, UBC – Dr. Traboulsee is a
                   neurologist whose clinical practice and additional research interests include multiple sclerosis
                   (MS), Asians with MS, and Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO or Devic's disease). He serves on
                   several local committees, including the Neurology Residency Training Program and the
                   Neuroplex committee and is active in the UBC medical school curriculum. His research group
                   includes several graduate students with interests in MS, MRI, and computing science and

                   Holly Tuokko, Department of Psychology, University of Victoria – Dr. Tuokko’s research
                   interests are in mental health and aging. Her research addresses the spectrum of mental health
                   challenges experienced by older adults, the impact these challenges have on everyday living,
                   and how the needs of these people can be best met. The current focus of her research is the
                   evolution of cognitive disorders in older adults and the impact of these disorders on everyday
                   competencies. Specific competencies of interest to her are driving, financial management, and
                   end-of-life decision-making.

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                    Andrew Wister, Department of Gerontology, Simon Fraser University – Dr. Wister leads the
                    SFU part of a $2.5 million five year grant, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
                    through their Community Alliance Health Research program, to develop and test innovative
                    interventions integrating cardiovascular prevention, self-care, and clinical care best practices
                    targeting baby boomers. He has conducted extensive research and written over 60 articles,
                    books, and chapters on environmental adaptation among older adults; patterns of family and
                    social support; aging, health promotion and population health; statistical methods; and life-
                    course trends and transitions.
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 •    Ana Mingorance-Le Meur won the First Prize at the MipTec drug discovery meeting (Basel, Switzerland) for
      her poster "Neuronal plasticity: cell-based strategy for target identification and validation."
 •    Dan Goldowitz was awarded an Applebaum Visiting Professorship. This award enables the University of
      Florida College of Medicine to invite leading researchers and clinicians to serve as a scholar in residence
      each year.
 •    Helen Tremlett recently won the European Charcot Foundation Young Investigators Award, which is the first
      prize for best poster.
 •    Jill Zwicker, a doctoral student with Lara Boyd, recently received the Adele Norman Graduate Award for
      Medical Research from the Faculty of Medicine.
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 Awards funding
 •    Peter Reiner received a CIHR grant entitled “International Neuroethics: Enhancement, Drugs & Devices.”
 •    Stephan Schwarz received a Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Leaders Opportunity Fund grant
      entitled “A New Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Translational Research in Pain Control and Anesthesiology."
 •    Brian Christie received two grants from the HELP (UBC) and REACH (UVic) for a project to determine if an
      effective exercise/educational program for children with FAS/FASD can be established.
 •    Lara Boyd, together with Janice Eng and Teresa Ambrose, recently received a CIHR Catalyst Grant
      entitled “Doing two things at once: how does age influence tasks which challenge both cognition and
 •    Judy Illes, Brian Kwon, Wolf Tetzlaff, and colleagues received a grant from the Stem Cell Network to
      investigate the ethical, legal, and social issues of using stem cells for spinal cord injury.
 •    Joanne Weinberg and Liisa Galea recently received a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Fetal Alcohol
      Research entitled “Vulnerability to addiction: Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and stress.”
 •    Robert Molday received a grant from the Foundation Fighting Blindness in the US to investigate gene
      therapy for X-linked retinoschisis.
 •    Jackie Rose (a former postdoctoral fellow with Ann Marie Craig) was also awarded the postdoctoral SFN
      Chapter Travel Award for the upcoming annual meeting.
 •    Sesath Hewapathirane (Kurt Haas) received received two UBC Faculty of Medicine Graduate Research
      Awards for 2008-2009: the Millie and Ralph Drabinsky Graduate Scholarship in Medicine and the Harry and
      Florence Dennison Fellowship in Medical Research. As well, his existing Graduate Fellowship from the
      Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation was renewed for an additional year.
 •    Philip Ly (Weihong Song) recently received a travel award from the Student Training in Aging Research
      (STAR) program, which is a part of the BC Network for Aging Research.
 •    Simon Chen (Kurt Haas) received the Disabilities Health Research Networks Graduate Student Travel
      Award to attend the annual SFN meeting.
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 •    Weihong Song was the Chair for the Canada-China Joint Workshop for Aging Research held on September
      24, 2008 at UBC. The workshop organized by CIHR IA Canada and NSFC China.
 •    Brian Christie recently published two articles. The first, “Exercising our brains: how physical activity impacts
      synaptic plasticity in the detate gyrus” appeared in Neuromolecular Medicine, and the second, “Stress
      differentially regulates the effects of voluntary exercise on cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus of mice”

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     appeared in Hippocampus. He was also featured in an article in Chatelaine Magazine.
 •   Judy Illes published several papers recently in Nature Clinical Practice Neurology, Neuroethics,
     Accountability in Research, and American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience. She has two more papers in
     press in Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders and Technology. She also moderated a panel called
     "Mind and Matter - Ethical Challenges in DBS" at the Dana Centre in Washington, DC on November 13,
 •   Adele Diamond was a featured speaker at a public symposium in Paris celebrating the 20th anniversary of
     the journal Neuron. She was also the RO Jones Memorial Speaker at the Canadian Psychiatric Association
     Annual Meeting in Vancouver.
 •   Peter Rieckmann was appointed to the BC chapter board and the medical advisory committee of the MS
     Society of Canada. He also received an honorable membership of the All Russian Neurological Societies.
 •   In September, Jackie Rose, a former postdoc with Ann Marie Craig, started as an Assistant Professor
     (tenure-track) in the new Behavioral Neuroscience Program at Western Washington University.
 •   Linda Lanyon (Jason Barton) was elected Director of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and
     Technology in June.
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 Media coverage
 September 2008
 •  Adele Diamond, Department of Psychiatry – Training young brains to behave (The New York Times)
 •  Judy Illes, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine – The perilous pursuit of perfection: Neuroscience
    has been used to provide athletes a mental edge, but it raises ethical issues (The Vancouver Sun)
 •  Giuseppe Iaria (Jason Barton & Howard Feldman), Department of Ophthalmology & Division of Neurology,
    Department of Medicine – Lost souls get some new answers; Research shows some people just can't create
    a mental map of surroundings (The Vancouver Sun, The Province, Fox News, The Times London, The Epoch
 •  Linda Lanyon (Jason Barton), Department of Ophthalmology & Division of Neurology, Department of
    Medicine – Issues facing women in science and technology (CBC Radio 1 – On the Coast)
 October 2008
 •  Clyde Hertzman, HELP – Investing in child care now will pay off later (Toronto Star)
 •  Giuseppe Iaria (Jason Barton & Howard Feldman), Department of Ophthalmology & Division of Neurology,
    Department of Medicine – Diagnosis untangles woman's whirl (The Denver Post); On the road to recognizing
    that difficulty with a basic skill (USA Today); also appeared on MSNBC, ABC News Radio - Paul Harvey
    Show, CBC Radio
 •  Weihong Song, Department of Psychiatry – Epilepsy drug could help cure Alzheimer's (The Calgary Herald);
    Epilepsy drug may help Alzheimer's patients. A popular epilepsy drug may also be beneficial in patients with
    Alzheimer's disease (AD) (People's Daily Online); Epilepsy drug may prevent, treat Alzheimer's (US News &
    World Report)
 November 2008
 •  Giuseppe Iaria (Jason Barton & Howard Feldman), Department of Ophthalmology & Division of Neurology,
    Department of Medicine – Getting lost (CTV – Dr. Rhonda Low Show)
 •  Judy Illes, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine – War memories raise ethical dilemma; Experts
    debate using medication to help Holocaust survivors cope with recollections (The Toronto Star); Post-
    traumatic stress drug (Global BC News Hour)
 •  Adele Diamond, Department of Psychiatry – Fixing my brain (CBC)
 •  Michael Hayden, Department of Medical Genetics / CMMT – Living with the prospect of Huntington's
    disease: Reporter shares his story (Canadian Press)
 •  Martin McKeown, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine – Finding a new life after Parkinson's
    diagnosis; Former lawyer and wife open cidery to Pouring for Parkinson's (The Vancouver Sun)
 •  Michael Hayden, CMMT – UBC professor named Health Researcher of the Year (CanWest News Service)
 •  Marcel Dvorak, Department of Orthopaedics – Centre for spinal cord injury care opens; Facility provides one-
    stop health care access at VGH (The Vancouver Sun)
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November 2008                                                        BRAIN RESEARCH CENTRE e-news
November 2008 – No 21                                                                                             Brain Research Centre

 Newsletter credits

 The Brain Research Centre e-news is published periodically and highlights activities of the Brain Research Centre and the achievements of its
 members. No part of this newsletter, including text and photos, may be reproduced without explicit written permission of the Brain
 Research Centre.
 The Brain Research Centre is a partnership between the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.
 Contributors: Melissa Waddell, Chris Crossfield, and Max Cynader
 Email: | Website:
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November 2008                                                                          BRAIN RESEARCH CENTRE e-news

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