All Speakers

Brain Adaptations


Liisa Galea, PhD
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Game of hormones: why sex matters for brain health

Dr. Liisa Galea is the Treliving Chair in Women’s Mental Health at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto after serving as a Professor at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at the University of British Columbia for 25 years. She leads the Women’s Health Research Cluster (>400 members worldwide). Dr. Galea is a world-renowned expert in sex hormone influences on brain and behaviour in both health and disease states, with a focus on stress-related psychiatric disorders and dementia. Liisa’s research goal is to improve brain health for all by examining the influence of sex and sex hormones in health and disease. She has won numerous awards, is chief editor of a top neuroendocrinology journal and is in the top 1% of cited researchers worldwide.

McGill University Panelists

Patricia Silveira, MD, PhD
Associate Professor and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre

Environmental responsivity: link between childhood adversity and long-term risk for psychopathology

Patricia is the scientific director of the Genomics and Epigenetics Pillar of the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics & Mental Health, based at the Douglas Research Centre, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University. She is also a Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. A pediatrician and neuroscientist, Dr Silveira’s research focuses on how perinatal and early-childhood environments interact with individual differences in biological processes, shaping and modulating both health and disease risk across the lifespan and into old age. Her aim is to identify how gene networks interact with environmental adversities early in life, modifying endophenotypes (impulsivity, sensitivity to reward, executive function, food choices, etc.) that ultimately affect healthy growth and neurodevelopment, increasing an individual’s risk for developing chronic metabolic diseases and psychopathologies across their lifespan.

Robert Zatorre, PhD
Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Inducing neural plasticity in auditory dorsal circuits via training and brain stimulation

Robert was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied music and psychology at Boston University, and obtained his PhD at Brown University, followed by postdoctoral work with Brenda Milner at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University, where he currently holds a Canada Research Chair in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience. His laboratory studies the neural substrates of two characteristically human abilities: speech and music. Together with his many students and collaborators he has published over 300 scientific papers on topics including pitch perception, auditory imagery, music production, and brain plasticity. He is perhaps best known for discovering how the brain’s reward system results in musical pleasure. In 2006 he co-founded the international laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound research (BRAMS), a unique multi-university consortium dedicated to the cognitive neuroscience of auditory cognition.

Christine Tardif, PhD
Assistant Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Magnetic resonance imaging of social isolation induced myelin plasticity in mice

Christine is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology & Neurosurgery at McGill University. She is also the co-Director of the MR Unit at the Montreal Neurological Institute and co-Director of the Quebec Bio-Imaging Network. Dr. Tardif’s lab at the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre develops novel MRI techniques to generate high-resolution quantitative MR images of the brain in-vivo and relates them to microstructural features of the tissue. Her lab has a translational approach, working on both small animal and human MRI systems at high and ultra-high magnetic fields.

Naguib Mechawar, PhD
Professor and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre

A reexamination of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in humans

Naguib is a Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University, and head of the Neuroanatomy of Mood Disorders and Suicide laboratory, as well as of the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank at the Douglas Institute. His research is focused on the fine neuroanatomy and molecular neuroplasticity of limbic brain circuits in depression and suicide. In the past few years, his lab has focused most of its efforts at investigating the lasting impact of early-life adversity on glial cells and neuroplasticity.

Neurodevelopmental and Neurodegenerative Disorders


Richard Bethlehem, PhD
University of Cambridge

Translational potential of human brain charts

Richard is an Assistant Professor in Neuroinformatics in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge and the director of neuroimaging at the Autism Research Centre. His work focuses on understanding lifespan changes in brain development and ageing from big data neuroimaging. In addition, his group develops tools to integrate large scale neuroimaging data with genetics and transcriptomics in an effort to better understand the biological mechanisms driving brain maturation. He maintains close collaborations with the BCG and Gandal labs at UPENN, the MICA lab at the MNI and the Cognitive Neurogenetics group at the MPI.

McGill University Panelists

Mahsa Dadar, PhD
Assistant Professor and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre

Contributions of cerebrovascular disease to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline

Mahsa’s team aims to investigate the role of cerebrovascular pathology in aging and neurodegenerative disease populations. Her research program has three main components: developing neuroimaging and machine learning tools to accurately detect and track signs of cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative pathologies; investigating the relationship between cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative pathologies, the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors on these diseases, and the impact of cerebrovascular pathology on clinical outcomes in neurodegenerative disease populations; and ex-vivo assessment of cerebrovascular disease using post-mortem MRI and histology.

Alain Dagher, MD
Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Big data for modelling neurodegeneration

Alain obtained his MD from the University of Toronto. He also trained at McGill University, Cornell University, and Hammersmith Hospital, London. He is a movement-disorders neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute. His research has two components: (1) understanding of Parkinson’s disease; (2) identifying the neural mechanisms that support motivated decision-making, with application to addiction and obesity. His group uses anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography and transcranial magnetic stimulation. They have recently investigated the topography of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease to test propagation models, develop biomarkers and stratify patients to predict disease outcomes.

Timothy E Kennedy, PhD
Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Synthetic synapses to restore neural circuits

Timothy is a Full Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, and Anatomy and Cell Biology, at McGill University in Montreal. He was born in Peterborough Ontario, grew up in Toronto, and trained as an undergraduate in the Biology and Psychology program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, graduating in 1985. He then completed post-graduate studies (1992) in the department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University in NYC, investigating how changes in gene expression contribute to long-term memory formation. In post-doctoral studies at UCSF (1992-1996) he and his colleagues purified and cloned a family of proteins that they named netrins, the first identified long-range chemoattractant axon guidance cues. The Kennedy laboratory (1996-present) at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate axon extension, myelination, synapse formation and synaptic plasticity, studying the significance of these mechanisms to neural development and to neurodegenerative disease.

Xiaoqian Chai, PhD
Assistant Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Brain networks and cognitive development in neurotypical children and in autism

Xiaoqian completed her BSc in chemistry at Peking University and MSc in computer science at Stanford University. She then went on to do a PhD in Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and received postdoctoral training at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University and a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Her research examines how large-scale brain networks support cognitive processes including learning, memory and social cognition in typical development and in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Cell Populations


Mark Cembrowski, PhD
University of British Columbia

Novelty representation on behavioural timescales by a non-canonical cell type of the hippocampus

Mark is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and an Investigator with the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. His laboratory, opened in 2019, combines a variety of experimental and computational techniques to study the role of cell types in memory and cognition. Prior to his position at UBC, Mark worked as a postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of Nelson Spruston at the HHMI Janelia Research Campus. Mark received his MS (2008) and PhD (2011) in Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University.

McGill University Panelists

Adrien Peyrache, PhD
Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Where is Mt Royal? Life-long memories of spatial orientation

Adrien holds the Canadian Research Chair in Systems Neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute. During his PhD at College de France and postdoc at New York University, he made major contributions in his field, revealing some of the neuronal mechanisms that support spatial navigation and memory consolidation during sleep. He started his lab at The Neuro in 2016, where he focuses on how spatial memories form and how the spatial-navigation system is affected in epilepsy and autism. He advocates open science, sharing data and tools with the community. He is co-founder and current co-chair of the The Neuro–Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation Open Science Prize selection committee.

Anne McKinney, PhD
Professor and Researcher at McGill’s School of Biomedical Sciences

Mechanisms of purkinje cell vulnerability and a novel therapy in Christianson Syndrome and related endolysosomal disorders

Anne is a cellular and molecular neuroscientist investigating the development of brain circuits in both the healthy hippocampus and cerebellum and in animal models of ataxia neurodevelopmental disorders. She completed her BSc (Hons) and PhD at the University of Ulster Coleraine. She conducted postdoctoral training in imaging, electrophysiology and synaptic plasticity at the Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich Switzerland. She obtained her own research lab in Zurich before moving to the McGill University in 2005. She is a Full Professor at McGill University, Canada, in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. She has served as the Associate Vice Principle of Research in Health Affairs and Associate Dean in Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University. One area of her research focus is Christianson Syndrome, a neurologic disorder caused by X-linked mutations in the endosomal Na+/H+ Exchanger 6 (NHE6), which is involved in cargo trafficking for the proper function of neurons and neuronal circuitry.

Pouya Bashivan, PhD
Assistant Professor and Researcher at McGill’s School of Biomedical Sciences

Towards more general models of ventral visual cortex in primates

Pouya is an assistant professor in the department of Physiology at McGill university, an associate academic member of Mila (Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute), and a William Dawson Scholar. His past research has spanned the fields of control theory, machine learning and neuroscience. Some of his prior work include approaches for DNN-based brain-decoding, electrophysiologically constrained neural architecture search, DNN-based control of brain activity and, more recently, algorithms for learning robust visual representations. His group’s current research falls at the intersection of artificial neural networks and neuroscience, and is focused on developing computational models of visual processing in the primate brain, with a focus on visual memory. Specifically, he uses artificial neural network models trained to perform behaviourally relevant tasks to model the cortical responses in primates. His ultimate research goal is to leverage the predictive power in such models of brain activity to modulate the brain’s function in disease.

Christopher Pack, PhD
Associate Professor and Researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)

Plasticity in the visual system, from neurons to perception

Chris’ lab studies the cerebral cortex with the goal of finding out how neurons communicate information about the visual world. They use microelectrode recordings to listen to individual neurons as they talk to their neighbours. These conversations are a type of code—in effect, the software that makes the brain’s hardware capable of vision. Part of this code can be understood in a straightforward way if one knows the statistics of the visual input. The relationship between these statistics and neural activity can be determined through computation. One of the goals of this research is to develop a quantitative understanding of how these different aspects of neural activity relate to memory, perception and behavior.

Translational Research


Gemma Modinos, PhD
King’s College London

Brain vulnerability for psychosis: from mechanisms to real-world outcomes

Dr. Modinos is Reader in Neuroscience & Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London (UK). She completed a BSc in Psychology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and an MSc in Applied Neurosciences at the University of Barcelona (Spain). She then moved to The Netherlands to complete a PhD in Neuroscience (Cum Laude) at the University of Groningen. In 2010, she joined the IoPPN as a post-doc, where she started her own lab in 2017. Modinos lab combines multi-scale approaches to investigate the role of the neural mechanisms involved in emotional behaviour in the development of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, and whether targeting these mechanisms can help design new therapeutic strategies. Gemma is also Outgoing Chair of the Young Academy of Europe, a pan-European network of ~300 excellent young scholars for scientific exchange, science advice and policy.

McGill University Panelists

Martin Lepage, PhD
Professor, Researcher and Deputy Scientific Director of the Douglas Research Centre

The central role of cognitive health in psychosis

Martin is the James McGill Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University and a researcher at the Douglas Research Centre where he also holds the position of Deputy Scientific Director. In that capacity, he contributes to the growth of the Centre by leading several large developments, notably the Douglas Data and Digital Science for Mental health (D3SM) initiative and the Open Science Program. On the clinical side, he has been working as a clinical psychologist at the Douglas Institute for almost 20 years and coordinates the activities of the Centre for Personalized Psychological Intervention for Psychosis. Over the years, Dr. Lepage and his team have developed a comprehensive research program on schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. These research activities are for the most part intended to have an immediate and direct impact on the well-being of persons with psychotic disorders. One important research theme is the understanding of cognitive impairments in psychosis including the neural substrates and how they influence clinical trajectories and functioning. His research team is also leading the largest study in North America on ultra-long-term outcome following a first-episode of psychosis. Another key theme concerns the development of novel cognitive health interventions.

Lena Palaniyappan, MD, PhD
Professor and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre

Human symptoms mapping: The case of psychosis

Lena is a practicing psychiatrist; he works with youth and families experiencing severe mental illnesses such as psychosis. Following Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, he completed his MD at Stanley Medical College, Chennai, India followed by a Masters and then PhD in Psychiatry at the University of Nottingham, UK. He currently holds the Monique H. Bourgeois research chair, and directs the Center for Excellence in Youth Mental Health at the Douglas. He is also the chief editor of the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology Journal – the JPN. His work on neuroimaging in psychosis led to The Global Rising Star Award from Schizophrenia Research Society and an Early Career Foundation grant from the CIHR. The major emphasis of his research is to modify the pathways that lead to poor long-term outcomes in individuals with serious mental disorders that often start in adolescence.

Nancy Mayo, PhD
Professor and Researcher at the RI-MUHC (Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre)

What to do with an idea?

Nancy is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Medicine and the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, where she leads a research program on function, disability and quality of life in vulnerable populations. Uniquely trained as a Physical Therapist, Epidemiologist and trialist, she has most recently focused on the development of technologies to expand the reach of disability targeted interventions beyond the boundaries of clinics, hospitals and resource-rich settings. As co-founder and President of PhysioBiometrics Inc., she has benefitted from funding from HBHL and McGill Innovation Fund for research and development of wearable devices that produce positive auditory feedback for good quality steps and hand movements, providing therapy in every movement. 

Manuela Ferrari, PhD
Assistant Professor and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre

Towards a pan-Canadian learning health system in early intervention services for psychosis: learning from experience and data sharing

Manuela is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and a Researcher at the Douglas Hospital Research Centre. She is a recipient of a Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS) Chercheurs- Boursiers (Research Scholar Junior 1) and the Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives (HBHL) New Investigator Start-up Grant. She applies participatory design to e-Mental Health interventions to enhance access to care, treatment and client engagement with services. She has helped create different digital technologies and interventions for clinical use, including video games, apps, digital assessment and monitoring platforms, and virtual reality training. In collaboration with youth, Dr. Ferrari created the Lidic Mind Studio, a state-of-the-art lab with technical equipment and infrastructure to conduct patient engagement research to co-design digital mental health interventions and solutions.