York University and Gairdner Foundation co-host international symposium on neural plasticity

Digital medical illustration: Lateral (side) x-ray view (orthogonal) of human brain with blood vessels.

York University and the Gairdner Foundation co-hosted a high-profile international neuroscience symposium on Nov. 19 and 20.

Ron Pearlman

“This was an exciting, world-class event presenting exceptional science and garnering praise and positive feedback from speakers, attendees, sponsors and supporters,” said York University Professor Emeritus of Biology and the Associate Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation Ron Pearlman. “York University was given high profile and high praise as an important contributor in this important and exciting field of biomedical science.”

The Gairdner Foundation, which hosts some of the world’s most prestigious awards in the biomedical sciences, selected York University to be the symposium co-host after completing a rigorous peer-reviewed assessment of proposals covering the breadth of biomedical science submitted by a number of Ontario universities and hospital research institutes.

“The symposium complemented York University’s long-standing involvement with the Gairdner National Program,” said Pearlman, noting that every year York University hosts more than 300 high school students at the Keele campus for talks by Gairdner Laureates and the Gairdner Lecture for faculty and trainees.

On Nov. 19, 400 guests attended the symposium’s public lecture presented by Columbia University Professor Eric Kandel, titled, “The Biology of Memory and Age-Related Memory Loss.” Kandel’s lecture can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2y8hhMC. Kandel is a Gairdner and Nobel Laureate, and the University Professor and Fred Kavli Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. His public lecture, hosted by the Gairdner Foundation, was supported by Telus Health and the Krembil Foundation.

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On Nov. 20, York University hosted Neural Plasticity: Synapses to circuits, a full-day international scientific symposium co-organized by Professors Kari Hoffman and Georg Zoidl of the Faculties of Science and Health at York University. The symposium offered presentations focused on developmental and synaptic plasticity, adaptive modulation of neural circuits, neural ensemble organization and plasticity, and neural oscillations in plastic circuits. It took place at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in the Accolade East Building on the Keele campus.

Seven speakers from Canada, the United States and Germany presented their exciting research findings. Their work focusing on new, basic discoveries that are leading to a greater understanding of the brain and of neuroscience will lead to important clinical applications with neurodegenerative diseases.

Principal investigators, senior scientists and new researchers in training attended the symposium. In total, some 225 people took part in the day. “To provide an opportunity for young scientists in the field, an eighth talk was presented by a young investigator from the Hospital for Sick Children,” said Pearlman. “There was also a very successful poster session with 50 excellent presentations on work relevant to the symposium presented by trainees, students and postdoctoral fellows.”

The symposium concluded with a celebratory dinner for speakers, sponsors, researchers and trainees. It was emceed by Dr. Catherine Zahn, B.Sc.’74, a neuroscientist and physician, the President and CEO of the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, and a 2016 recipient of a Bryden Award for Outstanding Achievement from York University.

The day’s events were generously supported by York University, the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science (MRIS), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Krembil Foundation.