Download a PDF of Parkinson Canada Research Program Awards for the current cycle.

Research Area: Causes
Recruiting the brain’s underdogs
Natalina Salmaso
Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neurobiology
Carleton University
Pedaling for Parkinson’s Pilot Project Grant
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year

Carleton University researcher Natalina Salmaso is applying her knowledge of a class of brain cells called astrocytes, which have not previously been considered major players in the development of Parkinson’s disease. By stimulating these cells into action, she hopes to demonstrate the role they play in addressing the effects of this disorder. Her work may point the way to a therapeutic strategy that supports the body’s mechanisms for healing itself.


Research Area: Complications
Preventing a cure from becoming as bad as the disease
Martin Parent
Laval University
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 2 years

Dr. Martin Parent, an associate professor at Laval University’s Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, is studying the cause of dyskinesia, uncontrolled movements that are a side effect of the levodopa therapy that is still the best drug treatment for Parkinson’s disease. He and his colleagues will be using an innovative new gene-editing technology to manipulate the function of a specific gene they regard as a primary cause of this problem.


Research Area: Complications
Connecting transplanted brain cells
Caroline Lafrechoux
Laval University
Funded by the Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

At Laval University, Master’s student Caroline Lafrechoux is investigating how to guide the axons, or the connectors, between transplanted cells in the area of the brain where dopamine-producing cells are dying. If she can find a way to guide the axons to the right locations within the brain, she’ll improve the prospects for brain cell transplantation as a way to replace the damaged and dying cells that are causing Parkinson’s disease.


Research Area: Complications
Easing the pain of Parkinson’s
Dr. Susan Fox, Professor
Associate Director, Movement Disorders Clinic Toronto Western Hospital
University of Toronto
Garden Centre Group Co-Op Corp. Pilot Project Grant
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year

With the legalization of marijuana on the horizon, many people are approaching their doctors to see if the oft-touted benefits of cannabinoids could help them. At the University of Toronto, Professor Susan Fox is conducting a small pilot study to see if applying cannabis oil provides relief from the sometimes sharp, burning pain that people with Parkinson’s suffer.


Research Area: Complications
Speaking up for Parkinson’s patients
Anita Abeyeskera
PhD student
Western University
Porridge for Parkinson’s (Toronto) Graduate Student Award
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

Western University doctoral student Anita Abeyesekera is applying her speech-language pathology and speech science background to open up a new approach to the study of hypophonia, the diminishment of the speaking voice that is often a characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. Her work focuses on understanding the experience people have of hearing their voices as being louder than they actually are, an observation that raises questions about how this disease affects sensory processing in the brain.


Research Area: Cognitive Impairment
Reigning in impulsivity
Dr. Melanie Tremblay
Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of Toronto
Pedaling for Parkinson’s Basic Research Fellowship
Basic Research Fellowship
$80,000 over 2 years

New medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease can be blessings for people who no longer respond to levodopa, the most commonly prescribed medication for this condition. But a side-effect of this new class of medications can be impulsivity, leading to excessive gambling or other harmful problems. At the University of British Columbia, Melanie Tremblay investigates the underlying mechanisms in the brain that make people vulnerable to this side-effect, to see if researchers could reverse the problem or develop another drug to treat it.


Research Area: Cognitive Impairment
Bringing networks back online
Dr. Stefan Lang
PhD student
University of Calgary
Funded by the Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

At the University of Calgary, Dr. Stefan Lang, a neurosurgical resident and PhD candidate, is using transcranial magnetic stimulation to deliver bursts of electrical pulses to stimulate the frontal lobe of the brain in people with Parkinson’s disease who have mild cognitive impairment. Lang hopes this non-invasive technique will trigger the brain’s plasticity, causing it to rewire the networks involved in judgment, memory and decision-making.


Research Area: Clinical Fellowship
Determining the Impact of a Multi-Disciplinary Movement Disorder Clinic on Health Outcomes and Health Care Spending in Parkinson’s Disease
Dr. Anish Kanungo
Clinical Fellow Movement Disorders Neurology
University of Manitoba
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship
$50,000 over 1 year

Conventional wisdom suggests that treating people with Parkinson’s disease in a movement disorders clinic staffed by an inter-disciplinary team will produce better health outcomes and reduce costs. At the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Movement Disorder Clinic, Dr. Anish Kanungo, a neurologist and clinical fellow, will study the data to see if there is actually an improvement in health outcomes, and a reduction in hospital, and long-term care admissions for people treated at the clinic.


Research Area: Causes
Establishing a new link between brain and body
Simon Wing
Professor
McGill University
Porridge for Parkinson’s (Toronto) Pilot Project Grant
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 2 year

A gene previously associated with muscle wasting has recently been revealed as a possible key player in the way Parkinson’s disease spreads itself through the brain. Simon Wing, a professor in McGill University’s Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, is examining the possibility that this gene could be a critical target for therapies to treat the progress of this condition by simply halting this spread.


Research Area: Causes
Understanding where to hit Parkinson’s disease
Dr. Ying Wang
McGill University
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years

Using specially designed, genetically altered mice, McGill University postdoctoral researcher Ying Wang is demonstrating what type of age-dependent decline of nerve cell function could cause Parkinson’s disease. By inducing Parkinson’s and then using a drug to reverse the disease in her mouse model, she hopes to uncover whether and to what extent the damaged nerve cells can regain lost function and recover.


Research Area: Causes
Improving damage detection in the brain
Jean-François Trempe
McGill University
Funded by Peter Cipriano
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 2 years

Jean-François Trempe, an assistant professor at McGill University’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is studying a gene that normally assesses the health of cells and signals when unhealthy ones should be eliminated. This regulatory mechanism appears to be distorted in cells affected by Parkinson’s disease. If this gene’s behaviour could be stabilized, the brain cells’ built-in system for keeping themselves healthy might be restored.


Research Area: Causes
Piecing together the Parkinson’s puzzle
Frédérique Larroquette
PhD student
McGill University
Funded by the Quebec Research Fund for Parkinson’s
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

At McGill University, Frédérique Larroquette, a PhD student, is conducting basic research to determine why only the brain cells that produce dopamine are vulnerable to the stressors that produce Parkinson’s disease. Larroquette is transforming stem cells into dopaminergic brain cells to study the three puzzle pieces known to play some role in the development of the disease: clumps of a protein called alpha synuclein, dysfunctional mitochondria within cells, and the misfiring of neurons.


Research Area: Causes
Misbehaving proteins
Dr. Lorraine Kalia
Assistant Professor & Clinician Scientist
University of Toronto
Pedaling for Parkinson’s New Investigator Award
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years

At the University of Toronto, Dr. Lorraine Kalia, a neurologist and neuroscientist, is investigating the role that a protein called alpha-synuclein plays in a familial type of Parkinson’s disease caused a by a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. Although large clumps of alpha-synuclein have been incriminated in the death of dopamine-producing brain cells, Kalia is investigating smaller deposits of the protein to see if their misbehavior contributes to the death of brain cells and patient symptoms.


Research Area: Causes
Testing theories in a new experimental model
Dr. Philippe Huot
Assistant Professor
McGill University
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year

At McGill University, Dr. Philippe Huot, an assistant professor, is developing and experimental model of Parkinson’s disease that will allow researchers to investigate changes in brain cells that occur at the molecular level. Huot and his team will be concentrating on alpha-synuclein, a critical protein that, when misshapen, prevents them from functioning properly and leads to clumps or aggregates in dopamine-producing brain cells that lead to their death.


Research Area: Causes
Unhappy neurons
Jordan Follett
Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of British Columbia
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
Basic Research Fellowship
$80,000 over 2 years

At the University of British Columbia, neuroscientist Jordan Follett is investigating the role of the retromer complex, a sorting network within brain cells that may position particular RNA-binding proteins within cells. Follett’s working theory is that if genes within the retromer complex are mutated, they could be misplacing the RNA within dopamine-producing cells, ultimately causing them to die. If he can validate his theory, it could lead to new avenues for drug discovery.


Research Area: Causes
Helping the brain fight Parkinson’s
Dr. Thomas Durcan
Assistant Professor
Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University
Pedaling for Parkinson’s New Investigator Award
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years

At the Montreal Neurological Institute, neuroscientist Thomas Durcan studies the mechanisms within the human brain that can be exploited to protect it from the impact of Parkinson’s disease. This work focuses on a protein called Parkin, which removes damaged components from cells, as well as a partner enzyme that appears to guide this protein’s activities. He suggests that this enzyme could be a worthwhile target for new drugs or other therapies that could enhance Parkin’s ability to protect against the effects of Parkinson’s.


Research Area: Causes
Shortening the path to a successful treatment
Alexandre Boutet
University of Toronto (University Health Network)
Porridge for Parkinson’s (Toronto) Graduate Student Award in Honour of Isabel M. Cerny
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

Alexandre Boutet, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, is using fMRI brain imaging technology to refine the way in which deep brain stimulation (DBS) is adjusted to meet an individual patient’s needs. By mapping out the active centres in a patient’s brain when the DBS device is turned on, he expects to reduce this adjustment period from as long as a year to a single day.


Research Area: Causes
Using new knowledge to re-examine an old problem
Frédéric Calon
Professor
Université Laval
Funded by the Quebec Research Fund for Parkinson’s
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year

At Laval University, Professor Frédéric Calon, a biochemist and a pharmacist, is applying new discoveries about the genetics and molecular causes of Parkinson’s disease to a closer study of the substantia nigra region of the brain. By comparing case histories with brain samples from people diagnosed with Parkinson’s before they died, Calon hopes to shed light on different subtypes of Parkinson’s and correlate symptoms to differences in the substantia nigra.


Research Area: Biomarkers
A new way to measure Parkinson’s progression
Antonio Strafella
Professor
University Health Network (University of Toronto)
Pilot Project
$45,000 over 1 year

At the University of Toronto, Dr. Antonio Strafella conducts imaging studies on the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. He’s using a new tracer, or chemical, that can highlight changes in the brain that show up on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans. Strafella is studying the density of the synapses, or connections, in brain cells to see if a reduction in that density, measured over time, could serve as a non-invasive tool to diagnose Parkinson’s disease or differentiate between different types of the condition.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Predicting the risk of Parkinson’s disease
Dr. Michael Schlossmacher
Professor
University of Ottawa/The Ottawa Hospital
Pilot Project Grant
$45,000 over 1 year

At the University of Ottawa, Dr. Michael Schlossmacher and his colleagues have created a mathematical model to enable doctors to predict who will develop Parkinson’s disease, and at what stage of life. If successful, this predictive model will improve diagnosis and treatment once other researchers have developed therapies to slow Parkinson’s progression.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Neurons that fire together, wire together
Cricia Rinchon
Graduate Student
Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network
Porridge for Parkinson’s (Toronto) Graduate Student Award in honour of Delphine Martin
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

Using two techniques for electrically stimulating parts of the brain, Cricia Rinchon is exploring the possibility that if they are stimulated, the cells that make up a network in the brain will work together to correct the damage Parkinson’s disease has done.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Gaining a new perspective on an old problem
Dr. Michele Matarazzo
University of British Columbia
Funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia
Clinical Research Fellow
$100,000 over 2 years

Dr. Michele Matarazzo, a neurologist with the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, is assembling a database of brain imaging scans to show the progression of Parkinson’s disease in patients over the course of several years. This information, provided by a type of imaging called Positron Emission Tomography, is expected to show patterns of disease development that shed new light on the nature of this condition.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Sniffing out Parkinson’s disease
Dr. Johannes Frasnelli
Professor
University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières
Pilot Project Grant
$40,000 over 1 year

At the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Dr. Johannes Frasnelli is studying a sensory system most people don’t even know they have. He’s investigating the trigeminal chemosensory system, which allows us to detect spiciness, freshness and burning sensations, to see if the system remains intact in people with Parkinson’s disease when they lose their sense of smell. If it does, it could become an important tool for detecting who is at risk of Parkinson’s.


Research Area: Biomarkers
The sleep disorder that leads to Parkinson’s
Pierre-Alexandre Bourgouin
PhD student
Université du Québec à Montréal
Funded in partnership with Fonds de Recherche Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$35,000 over 2 years

At the Université du Québec à Montréal, PhD candidate Pierre-Alexandre Bourgouin studies the connection between a sleep disorder called idiopathic REM behaviour disorder and Parkinson’s disease. Bourgouin, a neuropsychologist, uses an imaging technology to search for changes in the white matter in the brains of people with this disorder, which can cause them to be violent during REM sleep. Since 80 percent of those people later develop Parkinson’s, he hopes to discover differences in their white matter – the connections between cells. Those differences could provide clues to how Parkinson’s develops.