In 1915, Dr. Wilder Penfield, a McGill neurology and neurosurgery professor and former Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, revolutionized our understanding of the human brain. With help from collaborators, he refined and improved a daring surgical technique that allowed patients to remain awake and describe their reactions while the surgeon stimulated different areas of the brain.
Today, nearly a century later, researchers in laboratories across McGill and Oxford are continuing to build on Penfield’s neurological legacy. The two universities have joined forces to better understand and explore how the brain perceives, decides, remembers and reacts.
Launched in 2009, the McGill-Oxford Neuroscience Collaboration capitalizes on each university’s respective strengths in the area of brain research to create new opportunities for joint scientific research, teaching, graduate-student exchanges and cross-appointments with professors.
“This truly is a win-win partnership,” says Dr. Claudio Cuello, Chair of Pharmacology at McGill and a former Oxford professor. “It enables both universities to strategically focus on complementary strengths, orient our work around critical areas where efforts can maximize societal impact and encourage more grants than would have been possible on our own.”
The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The transatlantic alliance has already received funding for 20 collaborations, ranging from pilot projects to joint grant-writing exercises to workshops. It has also provided an important framework for McGill to establish similar international collaborations with Imperial College London and the Neuroscience Center of Zurich.
McGill and Oxford are both internationally recognized for their expertise in the field of brain research.
McGill is home to the world-renowned Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI), founded by Dr. Penfield, as well as the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and a number of academic Departments with high neuroscience content, such as Pharmacology, Physiology and Psychology. The University has over 200 faculty members across a range of disciplines who focus their teaching and research on areas directly related to neuroscience.
Oxford, one of the jewels of English higher education, has an illustrious history of neuroscience research dating back to the 17th century. Neuroscience research is performed in a number of departments and multidisciplinary centres across the university, including the John Radcliffe Hospital, MRC Functional Genomics and Anatomical Neuropharmacology Units, and the Oxford Centres for Cognitive Neuroscience, Functional Resonance Imaging in the Brain, Human Brain Activity and Parkinson’s disease.
Last month, leaders from both universities, including McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum and Oxford Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Development & External Affairs) Nick Rawlins, met in London to cement plans to strengthen the partnership and engage in an open dialogue with leaders from the UK academic and scientific communities about the future of the cutting-edge collaboration.
“We want to take this partnership to the next level,” says Dr. Cuello. “With additional funding, there’s no telling how much value this collaboration can add to the enhancement of science and discovery.”
Dr. Claudio Cuello spoke at the 2011 McGill Integrated Program in Neuroscience Retreat,
an annual symposium that brings together all of the neuroscientists who work under the McGill umbrella.