Fonds de recherche du Québec highlights three stunning students as government slashes budget

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Announcement of the February winners of the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles Award

Montreal, February 4, 2013 – Québec’s Chief Scientist, Rémi Quirion, is pleased to announce the February winners of the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles Award, a competition spearheaded by the three Fonds de recherche du Québec.

Award winner, Fonds Nature et Technologies

Michel Lavoie, PhD student in in environmental studies at INRS

Award-winning publication: Influence of Essential Elements on Cadmium Uptake and Toxicity in a Unicellular Green Alga: the Protective Effect of trace Zinc and cobalt concentrations. Published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 31(7):1445-52, July 2012.

Award winner, Fonds Santé

Jean-Baptiste Pingault, Postdoctoral student at Université de Montréal’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.

Award-winning publication: Childhood trajectories of inattention, hyperactivity and oppositional behaviors and prediction of substance abuse/dependence: a 15-year longitudinal population-based study. Published in Molecular Psychiatry, 06-2012.

Award winner, Fonds Société et Culture

Leslie Tomory, Postdoctoral student in history at McGill University.

Award-winning publication: Progressive Enlightenment: The Origins of the Gaslight Industry,1780–1820. Published by Cambridge: MIT Press, mars 2012.

In addition to promoting careers in research, the competition aims to recognize the exceptional research contributions of college and university students, postdoctoral fellows and members of professional bodies who are enrolled in advanced research training programs in the areas covered by the three Fonds de recherche du Québec.

Every month, each Fund will award $1000 to a student researcher. An overview of the recipient’s project and a photo of the recipient will be featured on the Web site

Dr. Quirion sends his congratulations to the winners.

Cancer Rant

I had to tell someone I love last night that lemon juice will not cure his cancer. FUCK antiscientific rumours and false hope. They just distract from the best possible medical healthcare and the reality of the situation a person faces. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are dedicating their lives, wholeheartedly, to a cure. They publish what they discover in books that anyone can read. When they find something that helps, we all know about it, including front line doctors. There is no evil conspiracy to hide the cure, it’s not hidden a test-tube somewhere in a vault. I wish it was, because it wouldn’t take long for someone else to replicate the result anyway. Next time you see some FUCKING BULLSHIT on the Internet, don’t hesitate to stomp it out.

Researchers prevent autistic behaviours in mice

McGill and Université de Montréal researchers revealed yesterday that autism-like behaviors can be rectified in adult mice with compounds inhibiting protein synthesis, or with gene-therapy targeting neuroligins (a membrane protein that regulates synapse formation between neurons.) Their study is published in the journal Nature.

“The autistic behaviours in mice were prevented by selectively reducing the synthesis of one type of neuroligin and reversing the changes in synaptic excitation in cells,” explained Prof. Jean-Claude Lacaille at the University of Montreal’s Groupe de Recherche sur le Système Nerveux Central and Department of Physiology. “In short, we manipulated mechanisms in brain cells and observed how they influence the behaviour of the animal.” The researchers were also able to reverse changes in inhibition and augment autistic behaviors by manipulating a second neuroligin. “The fact that the balance can be affected suggests that there could be a potential for pharmacological intervention by targeting these mechanisms.”

“Since the discovery of neuroligin mutations in individuals with ASD in 2003, the precise molecular mechanisms implicated remain unknown,” said Christos Gkogkas, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill and lead author. “Our work is the first to link translational control of neuroligins with altered synaptic function and autism-like behaviors in mice. The key is that we achieved reversal of ASD-like symptoms in adult mice. Firstly, we used compounds, which were previously developed for cancer treatment, to reduce protein synthesis. Secondly, we used non-replicating viruses as vehicles to put a break on exaggerated synthesis of neuroligins.”

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) encompass a wide array of neurodevelopmental diseases that affect three areas of behaviour: social interactions, communication and repetitive interests or behaviors. According to the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children suffer from ASD, and the disorder is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASDs are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).


To reach Dr. Lacaille

William Raillant-Clark
Media Relations 
Université de Montréal

Stephen Wilshire, an artist with autism, at work on a panorama of London. From his website.

Speed and ecstasy associated with depression in teenagers

A five year study conducted with thousands of local teenagers by University of Montreal researchers reveals that those who used speed (meth/ampthetamine) or ecstasy (MDMA) at fifteen or sixteen years of age were significantly more likely to suffer elevated depressive symptoms the following year. “Our findings are consistent with other human and animal studies that suggest long-term negative influences of synthetic drug use,” said co-author Frédéric N. Brière of the School Environment Research Group at the University of Montreal. “Our results reveal that recreational MDMA and meth/amphetamine use places typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.” Ecstasy and speed-using grade ten students were respectively 1.7 and 1.6 times more likely to be depressed by the time they reached grade eleven.

The researchers worked with data provided by 3,880 students enrolled at schools in disadvantaged areas of Quebec. The participants were asked a series of questions that covered their drug use – what they had used in the past year or ever in their life – and their home life. Depressive symptoms were established by using a standard epidemiological evaluation tool. 310 respondents reported using MDMA (8%) and 451 used meth/amphetamines (11.6%). 584 of all respondents were identified as having elevated depressive symptoms (15.1%). The range of questions that the researchers asked enabled them to adjust their statistics to take into account other factors likely to affect the psychological state of the student, such as whether there was any conflict between the parents and the participant. “This study takes into account many more influencing factors than other research that has been undertaken regarding the association between drugs and depression in teenagers,” Brière said. “However, it does have its limitations, in particular the fact that we cannot entirely rule out the effects of drug combinations and that we do not know the exact contents of MDMA and meth/amphetamine pills.”

The study’s authors would like to do further research into how drug combinations affect a person’s likelihood to suffer depression and they are keen to learn more about the differences between adults and adolescents in this area. “Our study has important public health implications for adolescent populations,” said Jean-Sébastien Fallu, a professor at the University of Montreal and study co-author. “Our results reinforce the body of evidence in this field and suggest that adolescents should be informed of the potential risks associated with MDMA and meth/amphetamine use.”

Images: 1. Depression is also the greatest cause of high school dropouts - Martin Chamberland - La Presse. 2. Albrecht Dürer's engraving Melencolia I, ca. 1514. Wikimedia Commons.

About this study
Frédéric N. Brière, Jean-Sébastien Fallu, Michel Janosz, and Linda S. Pagani published “Prospective associations between meth/amphetamine (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy) use and depressive symptoms in secondary school students” in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health on April 18, 2012. The study received funding from Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Santé et la Société (FQRSC, 2007-NP-112947). Frédéric Brière is affiliated with the University of Montreal’s School Environment Research Group. Jean-Sébastien Fallu is affiliated with the University of Montreal’s School Environment Research Group, School of Psycho-Education, and Public Health Research Institute. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.

For further information: 
William Raillant-Clark 
International Press Attaché
Université de Montréal 
Tel: 514-343-7593

Upcoming Health Symposium in Quebec

List prepared by the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé.

February 21 - 29, 2012

Canadian Digestive Diseases Week and Annual CASL Winter Meeting 2012

February 23 - 25, 2012
Leadership in transplantation - Annual Scientific Conference 2012

May 2 & 3, 2012
Biotech City 10th Anniversary Symposium

May 7 - 10, 2012
Annual Conference 2012

June 9 - 12, 2012
The Neutrophil in Immunity 2012

June 15 - 19, 2012
CAS / SCA 2012 - 68th Annual Meeting

June 23 - 27, 2012
11th International Congress on Nursing Informatics 2012

August 27 - September 4, 2012
UICC World Cancer Congress 2012

September 17 - 23, 2012
83th Annual Meeting

September 20 - October 3, 2012
Psychiatry 2012

September 27 - 28, 2012
Annual Meeting 2012

Image: Montreal’s Palais des congrès Conference Centre. Credit: Palais des congrès

Big week of public outreach for neuroscience research in Montreal! Firstly, the Douglas Mental Health Hospital revealed its collection of brains to the public - check it out. Secondly, Brain Awareness Week is coming up and university researchers have the opportunity to go and talk to kids about why their work is important - more info just below. Lastly, I made a YouTube video about all of this AND a new study from France that links cats to brain cancer

Here’s the invitation from the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives - check out the website for further info.

Volunteers needed for Brain Awareness Week!

Brain Awareness Week, Montreal is an annual public information campaign created by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives in order to educate the public on the functions of the brain and the importance of brain research.  Since 1998, Montreal has participated in BAWby having undergraduate (second year) and graduate students from all four Montreal universities volunteer to present at numerous elementary and secondary educational institutes.  The event has earned us considerable praise from the schools visited and from the media, while nearly all the volunteers who participated reported it to be a valuable and enjoyable experience.

This year’s BAW will be taking place from March 12th to 18h. Many schools have registered for our presentations and we are currently calling on all students and post-docs to volunteer their time to support this great event during this week. You do not have to prepare the presentation – we will do that for you! All you have to do is pick up the kit with all the information in it, familiarize yourself with the content and go to the school to give the presentation. Your enthusiasm and desire to teach is invaluable to the success of the BAW Montreal campaign.

La Semaine Cerveau en tête est une campagne annuelle d’information publique créée par «The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives» dans le but d’éduquer la population sur les fonctions du cerveau ainsi que sur l’importance de la recherche s’y rattachant. Depuis 1998, des étudiants(es) provenant des quatre principales universités de Montréal ont participés à la Semaine «Cerveau en Tête» en donnant des présentations dans plusieurs écoles primaires et secondaires. Cet événement est très apprécié par les écoles visitées et nous a mérité plusieurs critiques élogieuses des médias. De plus, la majorité des bénévoles ont trouvé l’expérience amusante et enrichissante.

Cette année, la «Semaine Cerveau en Tête» aura lieu du 12 au 16 mars et nous sollicitons la participation de plusieurs étudiants(es) et stagiaires postdoctoraux pour effectuer des présentations dans les écoles. Vous n’avez absolument rien à préparer ; Nous l’avons déjà fait pour vous! Vous n’avez qu’à venir chercher la trousse d’information et à vous familiariser avec le contenu avant de vous rendre à l’école avec le matériel fourni.

Oxytocin me baby!

These people are getting stock-photo freaky on oxytocin.

Oxytocin is widely known as the “love hormone” released during birth and breastfeeding to bond a mother and child, but it’s released other times, too. Oxytocin supposedly overflows us with positive feelings about one another.

Or does it?  

The truth will be revealed by Dr. Jennifer A. Bartz (Psychology, McGill) at McGill’s Redpath Museum on February 10 at 5pm, as part of its ongoing “Freaky Friday” series. Her presentation will be followed by the film The Notebook

Redpath Museum Auditorium                          

859 Sherbrooke Street West      

Metro: McGill  Bus: 24      


Everyone welcome 

No reservation necessary        

INFO: 514-398-4094

Homophobia research chair launched at UQÀM by Quebec Min of Justice

The Quebec Ministry of Justice and UQÀM (University of Quebec at Montreal) announced North America’s first ever chair for research into homophobia today. The research will be directed by Line Chamberland, a sexologist who published a hard hitting yet constructive and pragmatic report into homophobia in provincial schools last year. You can find the report here, in French only.

The fact that the Ministry of Justice is so heavily involved speaks volumes about the Government of Quebec’s investment in the chair and the intended outcomes: researchers will be looking not just at the ways gays and lesbians are discriminated against, but they will also be evaluating how effective anti-homophobia programmes run by schools, employers and the health system really are. Researchers are also looking to work closely with partners to put their recommendations into practise. It all adds up to Quebec taking this issue seriously and wanting to make concrete progress, both here and beyond. Today’s announcement was made in the presence of the Premier of Quebec, the province’s Attorney General (Procureur général), and the university’s rector.

Image: Claude Corbo, recteur, Steve Foster, président-directeur général du Conseil québécois des gais et lesbiennes, Line Chamberland, titulaire de la nouvelle chaire, Jean Charest, premier ministre du Québec, et Jean-Marc Fournier, ministre de la Justice, Procureur général et ministre responsable de la lutte contre l’homophobie. Photo : Denis Bernier. Courtesy UQÀM.

A bit more time for castration-resistant prostate cancer victims

A study published today in The Lancet by Dr. Fred Saad of the University of Montreal and Dr. Mathew R. Smith of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center reveals that the drug denosumab inhibits the bone metastasis of prostate cancer. The researchers worked with 1432 men suffering from a castration resistant prostate cancer and found that the bone-metastasis-free survival of those receiving the drug increasing by a median of 4·2 months compared to the control group. Overall survival did not differ between groups. Bone metastases are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in men with prostate cancer.

Dr. Fred Saad is available to speak with the media about this study and prostate cancer generally. To set up an interview or to obtain a copy of the study, please contact William Raillant-Clark, University of Montreal, at 514-343-7593 or

Image: Prostate et organes environnants (coupe sagitale pour la seconde illustration). National Institutes of Health.



Une étude publiée aujourd’hui dans The Lancet par le Docteur Fred Saad de l’Université de Montréal et le Docteur Mathew R. Smith du Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center révèle que le médicament denosumab empêche le cancer de la prostate de métastaser vers les os. Les chercheurs ont…