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News & Media

Neuro News April 2011

The Neuro News is a monthly electronic newsletter highlighting activities at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. If you have any comments, please send them to Communications. To subscribe and receive e-mail notification when a new issue becomes available, click here.

Previous issues

April 2011
Director's Corner: Radioactivity in the Food Chain

The earth calls upon tremendous resources to heal itself in times of great insult. Thus, over the last two centuries or so, the effects of man-made and natural disasters have been mitigated by the capacity of our planet to self-repair over time. The oceans have a vast capacity for self-correction. The oil spill in the Gulf, over decades of biodegradation, will eventually clear. Volcanic ash, which threatened to completely disable air travel, eventually cleared from the atmosphere. Airborne pollution from Asian industries has dumped high levels of mercury into the Pacific Ocean, forcing the recommendation that pregnant women and children consume only small portions of sport fish per month. Control of industrial pollution in Asia would over time reduce the amount of mercury entering the food chain. So far, there is an “exit strategy” – albeit lengthy - for each new injury.

However, since the 1950’s when atomic testing began, up through Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and most recently the catastrophe in Japan, the scope of the damage to the environment by nuclear fallout has increased far beyond public comprehension. Why?

This is because once certain isotopes of nuclear fallout artificially generated by damaged reactors enter the food chain they never leave. Although radioactive iodine has a relatively “short” half-life, other elements, like certain isotopes of cesium, remain radioactive for thousands and thousands of years. Some of these man-made isotopes, such as strontium-90, were non-existent in the food chain prior to atomic testing. Now, every organism on earth has measurable amounts of strontium-90. Once in the food chain these elements are recycled forever.

Once in the chain, there is no exit and no escape.

These isotopes can enter the food chain through discarded radioactive fish like tuna and swordfish that have ingested intensely radioactive seawater used to cool the damaged reactors. The Japanese have now come to recognize that this is a hopeless situation for their fishing industry, and dooms the world to what was first perceived of as a unique, limited Japanese peril. The publicity surrounding the contamination and destruction of sport fish, each fish bringing in up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Asian fish markets, has suddenly caused a re-evaluation of world wide nuclear policy, even though the effects of the atomic testing of the 1950’s and the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl reactor event are still preventing food crop use in large, uninhabitable areas surrounding these reactors. Around Chernobyl, for example, still, one cannot eat any food products, milk, vegetables, or animals that live near the decimated reactor. This, even though the reactor is entombed in concrete.

And so this is our legacy; unprecedented in our lifetimes, and in the lifetimes of all of our grandchildren far into the future. The solution, and it is taking the world far too long to implement it, is to as rapidly and efficiently as possible, seal the damaged reactors in concrete.

More about energy policy and how it will affect Canadians in a future column.

Please send any comments about the Director's Corner to David Colman

Recent News

Albert Aguayo, new Laureate of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Albert Aguayo
Researcher, visionary thinker and scientific leader Albert Aguayo was selected for induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Aguayo is best known for his research demonstrating that the central nervous system of mammals could regenerate after injury, findings that went against current dogma at the time. This landmark work opened the door to a vast body of research on neural regeneration and provided hope that this new knowledge would lead to effective therapies for patients with spinal cord injury.

Trained in medicine in Argentina and in neurology at Toronto and McGill, Aguayo focused his career on basic research and served as the Director of the Centre for Research in Neuroscience at McGill for 15 years. He served as President of the Society for Neuroscience and the International Brain Research Organization. Aguayo will be inducted on April 28 in London, Ontario, and joins other McGill scientists the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, including Wilder Penfield, Herbert Jasper, Brenda Milner and Bill Feindel from the Neuro.

The Neuro’s Newly Re-Designed Intensive Care Unit

Newly Re-Designed Intensive Care Unit
The Neuro’s ICU has reopened after a complete face lift. The goal of the new design was to revitalize and reorganize the space to create a quieter, more efficient environment for staff and patients. The ICU now has a new central workstation designed to reduce noise levels and improve patient monitoring and confidentiality. Space beside patient beds is now large enough to accommodate state of the art computerized medical equipment to better serve patients. The original meeting room has been transformed with computer systems permitting access to electronic records. Access to the ICU is now controlled by a swipe card system, reducing traffic and nonessential personnel in this critical care unit. Optimizing the physical environment for patients, clinicians and staff helps to promote continuous flow and ensures that processes are free of waste. Congratulations to the ICU team and all involved in making the renovation a reality.

Honouring George Karpati

George Karpati
Muscular Dystrophy Canada has created the Dr. George Karpati Award. This annual award will be presented at MDC's Annual General Meeting to an exemplary neuromuscular clinician or researcher who has made a significant contribution to neuromuscular research, the advancement of care of people with neuromuscular disorders, or to Muscular Dystrophy Canada in the past year in the areas of public awareness, services and/or fundraising.

This award is dedicated in honour of Dr. George Karpati, who passed away suddenly in February 2009. Dr. Karpati was a leading expert in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with neuromuscular disorders. He also led a world-class research team at The Neuro that sought to establish gene transfer techniques for the treatment of muscular dystrophy. Among his many achievements, Dr. Karpati was the first to demonstrate that dystrophin localizes beneath the muscle cell membrane, and that dystrophin is absent in muscle fibres of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A devoted friend of Muscular Dystrophy Canada, Dr. Karpati was a long-standing volunteer and member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee.

Community Connections

First Annual Charity Fashion Gala
The First Annual Charity Fashion Gala, held on April 1st at Vincent Massey Collegiate, raised more than $15,000 for the Brain Tumour Clinic at The Neuro. Organizer Sabrina Gagliardi, a teacher at VMC, and a host of volunteers organized the event in memory of Sabrina’s late husband, Modestino Di Fonzo who was a long time patient at the Clinic. Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors for their heartfelt efforts. For more information, please see CTV Report with Christine Long, who emceed the event.

Michael Hendy Gala
To celebrate the life of Michael Hendy who passed away in the summer of 2010, his family and friends organized the Michael Hendy Gala on April 7th, which raised more than $55,000 towards increasing awareness for bacterial meningitis and a Hemedex Cerebral Blood Flow Monitoring System for The Neuro. The equipment is indispensable for monitoring meningitis and other neurological conditions, and can significantly alter treatment outcomes. Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors, including Margaret Trudeau, who was a lively emcee, and Dr. Jeanne Teitelbaum, who spoke about Michael and the importance of the monitoring system to the treatment of meningitis and to Virgin Radio for covering the Gala Virgin Radio.

The town of Markham, Ontario, has proclaimed April 22 as B-Strong Day in memory of Lindsay Bolger, who shortly after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour in 2005, founded the B-Strong Fund to raise money for The Neuro and the Princess Margaret Hospital. After a four-year battle with cancer, Lindsay succumbed to the disease in November 2009 but her legacy will live on as her B-Strong Fund continues to raise money for cancer research. The 5th B-Strong Bash will take place on September 30, 2011 at Angus Glen Golf Club.
Lindsay was treated at The Neuro by Dr. Rolando Del Maestro.

Upcoming Events

Das Experiment, Neuro Film Series, April 19
Thomas Stroh, Director of the Neuro’s Microscopy Unit, will host Das Experiment, a provocative 2001 German film about a social experiment, similar to the 1971 Stanford prison experiment, which explores the dynamics of power and the impact of social roles on human behavior. Stroh, a researcher who studies chemo-receptors on the surface of neurons, will lead a discussion of the film. All are welcome to this free showing at 6:30 pm in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre at the Neuro.

Spring Fling, April 20
Come, be entertained AND impressed by the multitude of talents hiding in our midst! Spring Fling show time is Noon, April 20 in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre.

Interdisciplinary Neuro Palliative Care Rounds, April 28
Clinical Nurse Specialist Rosa Sourial and Nursing Practice Consultant Louise Fullerton will discuss the topic, Dying from a Stroke. Sourial and Fullerton are well respected and experienced nurses whose work has advanced the care for patients with a life-limiting stroke. All are welcome to attend this presentation at Noon on April 28 in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre. A light lunch will be offered at 11:45. Please register in advance with Debbie Rashcovsky at

The Brenda Milner Lecture and Neuropsychology Day, May 2
Eleanor Maguire from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London will deliver the 14th annual Brenda Milner Lecture entitled, Scenes, spaces and the hippocampus, as part of Neuropsychology Day on May 2. Maguire, who is interested in how we understand large scale space and our personal experiences within it, will lecture at 4:30 pm in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre. Researchers from the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit will present posters about their work in the Timmins foyer from 2 to 4 pm. All are welcome to attend these events.

Ira Byock will present The Ethics and Practice of Loving Care, May 4
Ira Byock, Director of Palliative Care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, will deliver the 14th annual Sandra Goldberg Lecture entitled, The Ethics and Practice of Loving Care in McGill’s Moyse Hall at 5:30 pm on May 4. All are welcome to attend this lecture as part of Palliative Care Week, May 2-6. To learn about other presentations this week or to view Byock’s lecture online, see at

Brain Tumour Research Centre Official Unveiling of the Donor Wall, May 9
On Monday, May 9 at 5:00 p.m., The Neuro will recognize individuals, families, foundations and corporations who supported the BTRC fundraising campaign (1997 – 2002), as well as major donors since the campaign who have supported brain tumour research and clinical care. The event will take place in the de Grandpré Communications Centre of the BTRC. The BTRC was inaugurated in 2002 to combine the best possible clinical care and research focused on brain tumours. Since then, thousands of patients have been treated in our neurosurgery suites and in the Brain Tumour Clinic, and new scientists and clinicians have been recruited to the BTRC.

Barry Connors to deliver Herbert Jasper Lecture, May 17
Barry Connors, Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University, will deliver the Herbert Jasper Lecture entitled, What are electrical synapses doing in the mammalian forebrain. All are welcome to this lecture on May 17 at 4 pm in the de Grandpré Centre. Herbert Jasper (1909-1999) is known as a pioneer in neuroscience for his studies of the electrophysiology of the brain and for developing electroencephalography (EEG) as a research and diagnostic tool. Wilder Penfield met Jasper at Brown University where he had established his first EEG lab. On Penfield’s invitation, Jasper brought his portable EEG machine across the border many times to collaborate with researchers and clinicians at the Neuro, and was recruited to establish the Neuro’s Neurophysiology and EEG lab, which he directed from 1946 to 1964. He later moved to the University of Montreal and focused on neurochemical and microelectrode techniques. Jasper, a founder of the International Brain Research Organization, received many awards and honors, including the Albert Einstein World Award for Science.

Neuro Convocation, May 19
Members of the faculty and staff, and supporters of the Neuro will be honored with awards that will be conferred at the Neuro Convocation. Please plan to join us at 3:00 pm on May 19 in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre to celebrate the achievements of these friends and colleagues.

In the News

The work of scientists and clinicians at The Neuro is frequently in the news so you can stay up to date by following our media coverage.

Etienne De Villers-Sidani was interviewed about hallucinations near death and the possible causes for a report ‘Démystifier la mort’ on Radio-Canada program ‘Les Docteurs’ [watch section 4/6]

Brain Awareness Week organizer Anne-Julie Chabot was interviewed by Agence Science Presse. BAW Open House was covered on Global TV. Brain Bee organizer Judith Antoine-Bertrand was interviewed by CJAD Radio.

A new study led by Amit Bar-Or had coverage on the web, read the press release Multiple Sclerosis: risk factors in children.

Amit Bar-Or was interviewed for an article about Multiple Sclerosis, recounting Jennifer Pevec’s experience with the disease in Montreal en Sante magazine

Continuing local and international coverage on the study of how listening to pleasurable music releases dopamine in the brain The Arizona Republic, Berlingske Tidente (Denmark), McGill Daily, SETI Institute Radio, The Journal Gazette, Global TV (April 10)

Congratulations to ...

Lorena Cook
Lorena Cook, Neuro Advisory Board member and National Chair of the Neuro Annual Fund, has been awarded the McGill Alumni Association’s E.P. Taylor Award for her outstanding voluntary service to The Neuro. She will receive her award and be honoured at the MAA’s Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 26, 2011.

Brain Bee 2011
Marina Nikolopoulos from The Study and Laurianne Garabed from Collège Sainte-Marcelline, winners of 2011 Montreal Brain Bee. Both students will move on to compete at the Fourth Annual CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee at McMaster University, May 27-28, 2011.

Condolences to ...

Friends and family of Warren Chippindale (1928-2010) who will gather on May 7 for a memorial service to celebrate his life and his dedicated service to The Neuro and to McGill University. Warren was a loving patriarch, an inspiring mentor and wise advisor who is deeply missed by those who were privileged to know him. Warren’s many accomplishments were noted in the December issue of the Neuro News. His family welcomes all those who wish to remember Warren to join them on May 7 at 1:30 pm in the Jeanne Timmins Amphitheatre at The Neuro, 3801 University Street.

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 Beth Kofron.

Page last updated: Jul. 18, 2011 at 2:26 PM