State-of-the-art facilities

The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank
Brain Imaging Centre
Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Platform

The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank

The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank (DBCBB), based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (McGill University affiliate), has become one of the most important brain banks in the world. Founded in 1980, it currently houses and manages over 3,000 brains. It also manage a large relational database containing demographic, clinical and developmental histories from the donors. Internationally recognized, the DBCBB is one of the rare brain bank in  North America to collect brains from people who suffered from different neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias, as well as diverse mental disorders, including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and substance use disorders. The brains are obtained from individuals who did or did not die by suicide (special collaboration with the Coroner’s office). 

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▪ The Brain Bank is operational 24/7

▪ There are nearly 3,000 human brains

▪ Researchers from around the world request our brain tissue samples because of their quality and diversity

▪ It is a unique resource for research on neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases

▪ Almost 1000 brain tissue samples are distributed annually across the world

▪ The study of the Brain Bank samples results in more than 20 scientific articles every year

An invaluable tool for advancing research

The study of brain tissue is essential for researchers as they strive to understand mental and neurological disorders. Human brain donations allow scientists to study psychiatric and neurological disorders. Tissue samples from donated brains give direct access to the cells, proteins and genes of the brain.

With the support of the Bureau du coroner du Québec, the Douglas – Bell Canada Brain Bank with the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS) offer a unique resource for researchers to study the biological factors associated with mood disorders and suicide. The research performed on brain tissue contributes to the development of intervention and prevention programs for people who are distressed and at risk for suicide.

More than 1,000 brain samples are prepared and sent to researchers each year. Samples obtained from the DBCBB have been essential to several scientific breakthroughs reported in studies published in high-impact journals such as Nature, Nature Medicine and Nature Neuroscience, among others. 

The Brain Bank in the media:

Brain Imaging Centre

The Douglas Brain Imaging Centre (BIC), inaugurated in spring 2012 is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to conducting preclinical and clinical brain imaging research in the field of mental health. It was conceived as an incubator for translational research, where animal imaging studies would serve to enrich the knowledge base derived from human studies and vice versa.

Its mission is to foster the development of novel biomarkers for early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neuropsychiatric conditions. Our centre houses a 3T Siemens Trio scanner for human imaging and a 7T Bruker Biospec small animal MRI scanner.

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These scanners are making possible:

▪ Better diagnoses:
The scanners will identify biological markers of various mental disorders in the patients’ brains. Currently, all diagnoses – including those of major depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia – are based on the observation of patients and self-reports

  ▪ Better prognoses:
New brain-imaging measures will enable researchers to make better predictions of the evolution of the patient’s disorder, thus leading to better-adapted treatments

  ▪ Longitudinal studies:
On-site scanners will make it possible to monitor the progress of more patients over longer time periods

  ▪ The development of animal models for various mental disorders:
Researchers will be able to monitor animal brains over time and see how they are affected by such conditions as stress and substance abuse.

  ▪ Research at the Brain Imaging Centre:
Researchers use several brain imaging methods, including MRI scanners, to non-invasively understand the brain structure and functions that are altered by mental illnesses.

The BIC offers researchers:

A platform to analyse brain imaging data from functional and structural neuroimaging techniques. The BIC also contains:

▪ research units dedicated to optogenetics and electrophysiology in small animals

  ▪ research units dedicated to clinical trials, TMS and EEG in humans.

The research scientists primarily study:

▪ The pathophysiology of several psychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and ADHD

▪ The cognitive functions in healthy subjects, such as emotional processing, spatial navigation, memory, and stress response.

Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Platform (MCMP)

The Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Platform (MCMP) is an advanced optical microscopy core facility founded in 2015 that offers access to the latest fluorescence microscopy techniques for neuroscience research. The facility is an Olympus Discovery Center, born from a partnership between the research center and Olympus Canada Inc. This allows the MCMP to offer the latest microscopes and techniques at competitive rates compared with other core facilities.

The goal of the facility is to help students and researchers alike to plan, design, perform and analyze fluorescence microscopy experiments. The Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Platform offers one-on-one support and training for fluorescence microscopy experiments and image analysis. The facility is qualified in a range of imaging tasks from basic neuron reconstruction to high-speed, deep-tissue optogenetic experiments in brain slices or live animals.

Our systems include:

• several wide-field microscopes with MicroBrightField software analysis systems,
• a brand-new Olympus FV1200 upright confocal microscope,
• a high-throughput Olympus VS120 slide scanner and an
• ImageXpress High-Content Screening Microscope.

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The facility also features a state-of-the-art Olympus FVMPE-RS advanced multi-photon microscope. This unique microscope was custom-built by Olympus specifically for the Douglas Platform to address the needs of our researchers in neuroscience. It is designed for high-speed, millisecond imaging in deep tissue for experiments such as live-animal calcium imaging and neuronal stimulation with optical fibers. This system comprises two separate microscopes that share a single InSight DeepSee pulsed IR laser: one microscope designed for live animal imaging and the other tailored for the use of a combination of optogenetics and electrophysiology in live brain slices. In addition, the system is equipped with a second laser and a dedicated SIM scanner that allows light stimulation even during high-speed imaging. Finally, this multiphoton microscope allows us to perform extremely deep imaging of clarified specimen (CLARITY), up to 8mm below the surface, using specially optimized objectives from Olympus.

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