McGill partners with leading Swiss neuroscience research group

By McGill Reporter Staff

McGill has joined with two leading Swiss research institutions – the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) – to jointly pursue neuroscience research in a host of areas, including pain therapy, Alzheimer’s disease, synapse modelling and repair, neuroimmunology and the genetic mechanisms of brain diseases.

“We are delighted to advance our cutting-edge neuroscience research through an international partnership with a leading network of neuroscience researchers,” said Principal Heather Munroe-Blum who, accompanied by Dr. Rémi Quirion, Vice-Dean (Science and Strategic Initiatives) in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, signed the memorandum of understanding in Switzerland.

“Over the past years, McGill has developed significant agreements with a number of important centres of neuroscience research providing new impetus for advances in this crucial area of medical care.”

The collaboration, backed by $200,000 in annual funding (divided between the Canadian and Swiss partners) for three years, will see these top-level institutions swap scientists, develop research projects, establish fellowships for exchanges of graduate students, provide seed money for pilot studies

and hold workshops into a variety of neuroscience research areas.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for us,” Quirion said. “The Swiss neuroscience research centre is at the forefront of where we are headed in better understanding the brain and the central nervous system. Together with our interdisciplinary Brain@McGill program, we have the opportunity to make significant advancements.”

The two Swiss institutions form the Neuroscience Center of Zurich (ZNZ), which brings together 440 neuroscientists in clinical and basic science research. Established in 1998, the ZNZ is one of the first international programs of graduate studies of neuroscience in Europe.

McGill’s history as a leader in neuroscience research, from the legendary Wilder Penfield’s establishment of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, is widely known. Its contributions are exemplified by Penfield’s maps of the sensory and motor cortices; Donald Hebb’s hypothesis of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity; Brenda Milner’s work on mechanisms of memory; Juda Hirsch Quastel’s studies in neurochemistry; Heinz Edgar Lehmann’s pharmacological treatment of schizophrenia; Theodore Sourkes’s proposal of dopamine replacement therapy in Parkinson’sdisease; Kris Krnejevic’s workin chemical transmission; Ronald Melzack’s “gate control” theory of pain and Albert Aguayo’s demonstration of the potential capacity for re-growth of CNS axons, to name a few.