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$20M award attracts leader in brain science to Alberta


Lethbridge, AB – One of the world’s foremost brain scientists, Dr Bruce McNaughton, has moved his research program from the University of Arizona to the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (CCBN) at the University of Lethbridge. McNaughton is the first scientist to win Alberta’s AHFMR Polaris Award, the richest health research award in Canada.

Alberta government funding of $10 million for the award, through the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR), has been matched by the University of Lethbridge and the Informatics Circle of Research Excellence (iCORE) for total funding of $20 million into Dr McNaughton’s research and the CCBN.

“This award was created in order to attract superstar medical researchers to Alberta,” says Gail Surkan, chair of the AHFMR Board of Trustees. “We worked with government and other partners to identify priority health areas to invest in. A rapidly emerging area of concern for everyone as we age is how to protect and heal the aging brain. Together with University of Lethbridge and iCORE, we chose Dr McNaughton for the excellence and pace of his science, and his reputation as a consummate collaborator. His science shows us how brain cells work with the very latest imaging techniques.”

Dr McNaughton was most recently the director of the Arizona Research Laboratories division of neural systems, memory and aging at the University of Arizona. His research focuses on how brain cells process information and form memories, and how those processes are altered by aging, trauma or substance abuse.

Research at the CCBN includes work on revealing how the cerebral cortex functions, exploring age-related changes in brain plasticity, the cellular basis of long-term memory, how sensory experiences affect the dynamic interactions between brain cells, mapping out the activities of large numbers of individual brain cells when the brain is processing information, and developing computer models of how the brain computes.

“Every scientist dreams of this kind of opportunity,” he says. “I am joining a team, lead by Drs Bryan Kolb, Rob Sutherland and Deb Saucier, that is already known globally for its groundbreaking work in behavioural neuroscience.”