Check out some of the papers that were recently published by DMCBH members:

Trisha Chakrabarty, Raymond Lam, Erin Michalak: Co-design of a Virtual Reality Cognitive Remediation Program for Depression (bWell-D) With Patient End Users and Clinicians: Qualitative Interview Study Among Patients and Clinicians

Journal: JMIR Serious Games

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of global disability; however, the existing treatments do not always address cognitive dysfunction—a core feature of MDD. Immersive virtual reality (VR) has emerged as a promising modality to enhance the real-world effectiveness of cognitive remediation. This study aimed to develop the first prototype VR cognitive remediation program for MDD (“bWell-D”) and gathered qualitative data from end users early in the design process to enhance its efficacy and feasibility in clinical settings.

Overall, patients and clinicians considered bWell-D interesting, acceptable, and potentially feasible, and provided suggestions to enhance its real-world applicability. The inclusion of end-user feedback is encouraged when developing future VR programs for clinical purposes.


Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Roger Tam, Robin Hsiung: Aerobic exercise improves executive functions in females, but not males, without the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism

Journal: Biology of Sex Differences

Aerobic exercise promotes cognitive function in older adults; however, variability exists in the degree of benefit. The brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) Val66Met polymorphism and biological sex are biological factors that have been proposed as important modifiers of exercise efficacy. This study assessed whether the effect of aerobic exercise on executive functions was dependent on the BDNFval66met genotype and biological sex.

The results suggest that future randomized controlled trials should take into consideration BDNF genotype and biological sex to better understand the beneficial effects of aerobic training on cognitive function in vascular cognitive impairment to maximize the beneficial effects of exercise and help establish exercise as medicine for cognitive health.


Tamara Vanderwal: Cortical gradients during naturalistic processing are hierarchical and modality-specific

Journal: Neuroimage

Understanding cortical topographic organization and how it supports complex perceptual and cognitive processes is a fundamental question in neuroscience. Previous work has characterized functional gradients that demonstrate large-scale principles of cortical organization. How these gradients are modulated by rich ecological stimuli remains unknown.

This study utilized naturalistic stimuli via movie-fMRI to assess macroscale functional organization to identify principal movie gradients that delineate separate hierarchies anchored in sensorimotor, visual, and auditory/language areas. At the opposite/heteromodal end of these perception-to-cognition axes, it found a more central role for the frontoparietal network along with the default network. Even across different movie stimuli, movie gradients demonstrated good reliability, suggesting that these hierarchies reflect a brain state common across different naturalistic conditions. The relative position of brain areas within movie gradients showed stronger and more numerous correlations with cognitive behavioral scores compared to resting state gradients. Together, these findings provide an ecologically valid representation of the principles underlying cortical organization while the brain is active and engaged in multimodal, dynamic perceptual and cognitive processing.


Tao Huan: BUDDY: molecular formula discovery via bottom-up MS/MS interrogation

Journal: Nature Methods

Mass spectrometry is a cutting-edge analytical tool that enables the sensitive detection of thousands of low-abundance chemicals in biological and environmental samples. It has found widespread application in metabolomics and exposomics as an untargeted screening method for monitoring all chemicals in a sample. However, the known chemical space is only a small fraction of the entire chemical universe, and the majority of chemical signals detected by mass spectrometry cannot be annotated as known chemicals through literature searches, known as the “dark chemical” problem. This knowledge gap significantly impedes our understanding of unknown chemicals and their functions in human health and disease.

The Huan lab in UBC’s Department of Chemistry recently developed a breakthrough approach to identifying the molecular formula of unknown chemicals using tandem mass spectrometry, opening up new avenues for characterizing previously unknown biological and environmental chemicals and their impact on human health. This pioneering work could revolutionize the analysis of the chemical world and help to fill in gaps in our understanding. The study was published in the high-profile journal Nature Methods, with first authorship credited to graduate student Shipei Xing.


Mypinder Sekhon: Hemoglobin and cerebral hypoxic vasodilation in humans: Evidence for nitric oxide-dependent and S-nitrosothiol mediated signal transduction

Journal: Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism

Cerebral hypoxic vasodilation is poorly understood in humans, which undermines the development of therapeutics to optimize cerebral oxygen delivery. Across four investigations (total n = 195), this study investigated the role of nitric oxide (NO) and hemoglobin-based S-nitrosothiol (RSNO) and nitrite (NO2−) signaling in the regulation of cerebral hypoxic vasodilation.

Data from this study indicates that cerebral hypoxic vasodilation is partially NO-dependent, associated with trans-cerebral RSNO release, and place hemoglobin-based NO signaling as a central mechanism of cerebral hypoxic vasodilation in humans.


Lynn Raymond: Axonal ER Ca2+ Release Selectively Enhances Activity-Independent Glutamate Release in a Huntington Disease Model

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Action potential-independent (miniature) neurotransmission occurs at all chemical synapses, but remains poorly understood, particularly in pathological contexts. Axonal endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca2+ stores are thought to influence miniature neurotransmission, and aberrant ER Ca2+ handling is implicated in progression of Huntington disease (HD). This study found elevated miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (mEPSC) frequencies in recordings from YAC128 mouse (HD-model) neurons (from cortical cultures and striatum-containing brain slices – both from male and female animals).

The results of this study indicate axonal ER dysfunction selectively elevates miniature glutamate release from cortical terminals in HD. This, together with reduced spontaneous cortical neuron firing, may cause a shift from activity-dependent to -independent glutamate release in HD, with potential implications for fidelity and plasticity of cortical excitatory signaling.


Paul van Donkelaar, Shelina Babul: The Concussion Awareness Training Tool for Women’s Support Workers Improves Knowledge of Intimate Partner Violence-Caused Brain Injury

Journal: INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing

Women who experience physical intimate partner violence (IPV) are at high risk of suffering a brain injury (BI) due to head impacts and/or strangulation. Currently, most staff at women’s shelters tend not to be aware of IPV-caused BIs. The objective of this study was to address this by developing a new online module within the Concussion Awareness Training Tool ( specifically focused on IPV-caused BI, and measuring its effectiveness in increasing BI awareness and knowledge among staff members at women’s shelters.

Analysis of the interviews with 9 participants highlighted 3 main themes arising from the module: knowledge, mindfulness, and advocacy. All participants felt their knowledge of IPV-caused BIs had increased and said they would recommend the training to their co-workers. Analysis of the module content revealed the most frequent behavior change techniques were related to instructions on how to perform screening and accommodation for IPV-caused BI. The results showed the module was effective in increasing knowledge of IPV-caused BIs amongst women’s shelter staff as well as improving how they advocate for, and are mindful of, their clients with BIs. This online training may help improve the care women with IPV-caused BIs receive, and ultimately improve their quality of life.


Erin MacMillan: Chapter 4 – MRS in neuroinflammation

Book: Advances in Magnetic Resonance Technology and Applications

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) offers a unique and noninvasive tool to probe the chemistry of the central nervous system. MRS biomarkers reflect a range of pathways affected by neuroinflammation including gliosis, neuron and axon health, myelin damage, cellular energy failure, oxidative stress, and neurotransmitter levels. This chapter summarizes the interpretation of these MRS biomarkers as well as current approaches for MRS data acquisition and analysis.


Liisa Galea: Beyond sex differences: short- and long-term effects of pregnancy on the brain

Journal: Trends in Neurosciences

Growing attention has been directed to the inclusion of females in neuroscience studies, and to the importance of studying sex as a biological variable. However, how female-specific factors such as menopause and pregnancy, affect the brain remains understudied. In this review, pregnancy is used as a case in point of a female-unique experience that can alter neuroplasticity, neuroinflammation, and cognition. Studies in both humans and rodents were examined, indicating that pregnancy can modify neural function in the short term, as well as alter the trajectory of brain aging. Furthermore, the authors discuss the influence of maternal age, fetal sex, number of pregnancies, and presence of pregnancy complications on brain health outcomes. In conclusion, the scientific community is encouraged to prioritize researching female health by recognizing and including factors such as pregnancy history in research.