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Alberta professor wins top national award for spinal cord research


Toronto, ON – A researcher from the University of Alberta, Dr Simon Gosgnach, has earned the 2011 Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research. The prize is presented annually to the spinal cord researcher who scores the highest ranking in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Operating Grants competition, for research in the field of spinal cord injuries. This year’s announcement, which took place during the Charles H Tator – Barbara Turnbull Lectureship Series in Spinal Cord Injury in Toronto, marks the 10th anniversary of the Barbara Turnbull Award. The award is administered through a successful partnership among the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, the NeuroScience Canada Foundation, and the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

“I’m delighted and honoured to accept this prestigious award,” said Dr Gosgnach, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Alberta. “As a society, it’s imperative to invest in research if we hope to improve our understanding of mobility to develop new treatments for spinal cord injury.”

Dr Gosgnach, a 2007 CIHR’s new investigator awardee in this field analyses the structure and function of neural networks to learn how the nervous system produces essential behaviours such as breathing, swallowing, chewing, and walking. His laboratory focuses on signaling neurons in the spine to determine how the neural networks involved in movement are activated. These studies will help us to understand how these circuits may help to devise therapies aimed at enhancing functional recovery of movement after spinal cord injury.

The Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research was established in 2001 to raise awareness of the more than four million Canadians who are afflicted with neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. This award is for $50,000.