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by Bernard Brais, MD, PhD, who will join The Neuro as Associate
Professor in June 2011.
Director's Corner: Charcot and The Neuro
Dr. Colman has asked me to write a few words about Jean-Martin Charcot
(1825-1893), the historic figure I studied during my training in the
history of neuroscience at the Wellcome Institute for the History of
Medicine (London) and the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (Paris). Is it
still relevant to discuss this giant of medicine more than 115 years after
his death? Is his influence on the neuroscience field still felt in the
21st century? Did he somehow shape the history of The Neuro, the institute
to which I am preparing to return almost 20 years after completing my
residency in neurology?
Jean-Martin Charcot, the son of a craftsman, was born in Paris in 1825. A
talented artist, gifted student and accomplished polyglot, this reserved
young man chose the path of medicine, both out of a natural interest and as
a way to guarantee his ascension up the social ladder. He very soon became
associated with a group of progressive young activists who were fighting
within the Société de biologie for reform both in medicine and French
society through science.
Like Claude Bernard, Charles-Édouard Brown-Sequard and others, Charcot was
guided in his early career by Pierre Rayer, doctor to Napoleon III. And
like a benevolent father, Rayer arranged a socially advantageous marriage
for his disciple, thus the recently graduated Charcot married a wealthy
widow, who would provide him with complete financial independence.
Liberated of all monetary concerns, Charcot devoted himself completely to
his professional and scientific career. He would dip regularly into the
family’s resources, be it to secure a talented collaborator or purchase the
latest microscope. More than anyone in his generation, he used his
substantial financial resources to build one of the most extensive
collections of medical publications, marking the beginning of “publish or
perish.” Charcot enjoyed direct access to a network of publications that
chronicled his ideas and discoveries in France and abroad.
As head of the largest hospital-based neuroscience department in the 19th
century, owing to the founding in 1880 of the Clinique des maladies du
système nerveux de la Salpêtrière, and as the first in the world to hold a
university Chair of neurology (Chair of nervous system diseases, 1882),
Charcot dominated the international neurology scene from the late 1870s
until his death in 1893. Many have ventured so far as to name him the
father of this new medical specialty that was neurology. He was of course
not the only father figure, but he has without question left the deepest
imprint on neurological thought— an imprint felt to this day.
His contributions are too numerous to list here, but the earliest
descriptions of multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are sufficient indication of the importance of
his work. In fact, in the whole of medical history, he is the physician
whose name is associated with the largest number of clinical signs, defined
illnesses and anatomical and pathological structures. He is the champion of
all categories of eponyms. However, it is more on a structural level that
he shaped neurology, by defining the foundations of anatomo-clinical
correlations, of which the mapping of lesions is a cornerstone. These
foundations were so respected by Dr. Wilder Penfield that he integrated
them into the creation of the Montreal Neurological Institute, where the
first great clinicians all had solid training in pathology.
Penfield’s high esteem for Charcot is reflected by including his name in
The Neuro’s Foyer (William) Feindel (link to Foyer
images). It was also an opinion clearly shared by Penfield’s peers and
marked by Charcot’s appearance in the mural by Mary Filer - The Advance of
Neurology (Mural [.pdf] note Charcot is #4 in the
legend). But it is through the physical integration of the research
laboratory and clinic that The Neuro has most profoundly adopted the
Charcot tradition. The fact that after 75 years this institution continues
each day to draw such value from the amalgamation of clinical and research
speaks volumes about the extent to which Penfield and Charcot shared the
same vision of the ideal environment in which to develop the neurosciences.
I would be remiss if I did not touch on another influence that Charcot had
on The Neuro, one that might best be dubbed the French connection! When
William Feindel, with his trademark erudition and enthusiasm, introduced me
to the history of The Neuro in 1981, as the first French Canadian president
of the McGill Osler Society, I was struck by the proactive openness of
Penfield to bring francophone neurologists from the Université de Montréal
network into his institute project. From its founding to the present day,
The Neuro has been a premier site of scientific learning and initiatives
for neurologists, neurosurgeons, and neuroscientists from Montreal and
across Quebec. Like Charcot, Penfield was aware that to prosper, an
institution must be deeply rooted in its community in all of its diversity.
The influence of The Neuro on a global scale reflects to a certain extent
the multifarious culture of Quebec and the care taken by the Institute’s
founder to ensure that the neurosciences never be constrained by linguistic
or cultural barriers. The neurology of Charcot, like that of Penfield and
the Montreal Neurological Institute, is one that is an open door to the
Bernard Brais, MD, PhD
Please send any comments about the Director's Corner to
Neurology and Neurosurgery Leaders
Neurologist Lesley Fellows has been named Interim Chair of
Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University with the retirement of
former Chair, Richard Riopelle. Fellows received her PhD at the University
of Oxford (UK) as a Rhodes Scholar, completed her MDCM and residency in
neurology at McGill, and clinical and research fellowships at the
University of Pennsylvania. Her research and clinical programs focus on the
role of frontal brain regions in social and emotional behavior, and
decision-making. To facilitate research in human cognition, Fellows
established a Cognitive Neuroscience Research Registry of patients with
focal brain lesions. Her research is supported by the Heart and Stroke
Foundation, the Parkinson’s Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health
Research, the National Institutes of Health (US) and other agencies.
Neurologist Liam Durcan was named Neurologist-in-Chief for
the McGill University Health Centre. Durcan completed his MD at the
University of Manitoba, and residency training in both internal medicine
and neurology at McGill University and then did advanced fellowship
training in neuromuscular disorders and cerebrovascular disorders. Durcan
has been recognized for excellence in teaching and for clinical research on
efficacy of medical therapies for the treatment of stroke and Multiple
Sclerosis. He is also known to a literary audience for published works of
fiction and poetry.
Etienne de Villers-Sidani, new Assistant Professor
McGill-trained neurologist Etienne de
Villers-Sidani has returned to The Neuro as an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. He recently completed advanced
training at the University of California, San Francisco, where he did
clinical and research fellowships at the Aging and Memory Center and in the
laboratory of Michael Merzenich. De Villers-Sidani has 3 patents pending on
methods to remediate cognitive decline related to aging and neurological
disorders, and will pursue related research at The Neuro. De
Villers-Sidani’s training and research has been supported by the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research.
Neurosurgeon Marie-Noëlle Hébert-Blouin joins The
Neurosurgeon Marie-Noëlle Hébert-Blouin
joins The Neuro Marie-Noëlle Hébert-Blouin, who completed her MD and
Masters of Science degrees and Residency training at McGill, joins the
neurosurgical team at The Neuro as an expert in peripheral nerve surgery.
She recently completed advanced training in this specialty as a Fellow at
the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In recent scientific talks,
Hébert-Blouin presented on Schwannomas of major peripheral nerves and nerve
regeneration in scarred and ischemic limbs.
Amit Bar-Or receives Physician of Distinction Award
Neurologist Amit Bar-Or received the Physician of
Distinction Award from the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis
for his contributions to research on Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a
demyelinating disease of the central nervous system that affects an
estimated 2 million people worldwide. Accelerated Cure Project aims to
facilitate the work of researchers like Bar-Or and to speed the search for
the causes and a cure for this debilitating disease. Patients at the MS
Clinic at The Neuro receive the best care, which includes opportunities to
participate in clinical studies of new therapies.
Friends of The Neuro - supporting our patients
For more than a quarter of a century, The Friends of The Neuro – a
non-profit group of dedicated volunteers – have raised money to support
activities and equipment that have a direct impact on patients and their
families. The Friends help support the day-to-day operations of the Neuro
Patient Resource Centre and they ensure that the mini-store program on
wheels, run with the help of volunteer students, provides patients with
products they may need while in hospital. In addition to providing
bursaries and funds for professional neuroscience nursing developments,
this year The Friends have also purchased equipment and furniture for a
number of departments and waiting rooms at The Neuro.
If you are looking for a souvenir item, perhaps a Neuro t-shirt or the
latest hoodie, The Friends boutique can be found near the lobby on Tuesdays
and Thursdays from 8 am to 2:30 pm.
Keep in touch
Follow The Neuro on Twitter
Faculty and Staff Campaign launch, October 21
The fifth annual Faculty and Staff Campaign “Putting our heads together”
will be launched on October 21. Co-chairs Francois Dubeau and Alyson
Fournier will be on hand in the Feindel Foyer from 8-10 am to kick off the
campaign with coffee and treats, and to thank the dedicated faculty and
staff who demonstrated their commitment to The Neuro mission by generously
donating more than $400,000 in only 4 years.
End-of-Life Care in ALS, October 27
Neurologist Danielle Lavoie will deliver a talk End-of-Life Care in
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis at Neuropalliative Interdisciplinary Rounds
in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre at Noon on October 27. Her talk will
open the new series of expert presentations on Neuropalliative Care that
are offered monthly at The Neuro. All are welcome: a simple buffet lunch
will be available at 11:45 am. Please register in advance with Debbie
Rashcovsky at 514-398-6047 or by
Multiple Sclerosis focus: Denis Melançon Lecture, October
Gordon Francis, Director of NeuroInflammation Clinical Science Unit for
Novartis Pharmaceuticals, will deliver the keynote Melancon lecture
entitled Multiple Sclerosis: The role of MRI in monitoring the cure at 4 pm
on October 28. Francis had been Director of the MS Clinic at The Neuro and
established the foundations for the Clinical Research Unit through which
patients may participate in clinical studies of new therapies. Starting at
1 pm, other experts, including Bruce Pike and Maria Cortes from The Neuro
and specialists from the University of Montreal, will talk about clinical
and basic science research on MS. Please see
website for more information on this program.
Bernard Brais to deliver Francis McNaughton Lecture,
Neurologist and neurogenetisist Bernard Brais will speak on New founder
effects for recessive white matter diseases in the French-Canadian
population at the Francis McNaughton Lecture at 8:30 am on November 3 in
the de Grandpré Communications Centre. Brais, currently Director of the
Laboratory of Neurogenetics of Motion at the Research Centre of the
University of Montreal Hospital Centre, will join the faculty at The Neuro
in June 2011. All are welcome to attend this scientific lecture.
Neuro Movie Night, November 11
Neurologist Lesley Fellows will host Neuro Movie Night on November 11 with
a showing of the Oscar-nominated and award winning film Away from Her.
Based on a short story by Alice Munro and directed by Sarah Polley, this
tender film shines intense light on life’s changes as Julie Christie
portrays a patient with Alzheimer’s disease whose 40 year marriage fades
from memory. All are welcome to this free film and discussion at 6:30 pm in
The Neuro’s Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre (3801 University Street).
Refreshments will be available to purchase. Watch for future Movie Nights
on our website.
In the News- recent highlights
The Globe and Mail: Named one of 25
Bons baisers de France
BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Health Check: Interview
Inauguration of The Neuro’s Neurosurgical Simulation
Journal de Metro:
Other coverage: Global TV News (national and regional), Radio-Canada Radio,
CBC Radio, The Ottawa Citizen and wide coverage on the web.
Prime Minister Jean Charest
cites The Neuro as an example of
how Quebec shines in an
to Macleans magazine posted on various media outlets
interviewed about the phenomenon of I
Other coverage: CBC Radio, The Chronicle Herald, La Presse Canadienne, Le
Nouvelliste, Le Soir.
Congratulations to ...
who was recently nominated as one of 25
who completed the Ironman Triathlon in
09:36:29, ranking 45th in his division and 199th overall.
Director - David R. Colman, PhD
Senior Management - Martine Alfonso; Mark Angle, MD; Phil Barker, PhD; Rob
Dunn, PhD; Lucia Fabijan; Tom Gevas; Elizabeth Kofron, PhD; Catherine Rowe;
Donatella Tampieri, MD
Neuro News: Elizabeth Kofron, PhD & Sandra McPherson, PhD
Please send any items for the Neuro News to
Sandra McPherson or