Sutherland makes top 50 list

Dr. Robert Sutherland, a neuroscience researcher at the University of Lethbridge's Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (CCBN), is among 50 people named by Alberta Venture Magazine as their 50 Most Influential Albertans for 2011.

Sutherland made the list for a breakthrough discovery last year in which he and his team confirmed the re-generation of cerebral cortex cells in adult mammals.

The research focused on a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped region of the brain responsible for short- and long-term memory storage and retrieval. This is an area that is especially sensitive to illnesses or injuries that can create memory loss, explains Sutherland. It's also a part of the brain that throughout adult life spontaneously creates new cells that are able to easily find their correct position in the brain's circuitry.

The team began by killing off about half of these cells by depriving them of corticosterone, an important hormone the cells need to function, causing the rats to develop memory issues very similar to humans suffering with dementia. Through a combination of a specific protein therapy, an enriched living environment and exercise, the researchers were able to re-grow the lost brain cells and prove that the rats had regained their memory function.

Regenerating brain cells is a problem neuroscientists have been struggling with for many years, with limited success. The challenge stems from the nature of the brain itself. "If you open up a laptop and take a look at the circuit board, every portion you look at has a sophisticated set of connections with other pieces," says Sutherland. "The brain is even more complicated."

For more on this discovery, follow this link.

Other persons honoured by Venture include U of L Honorary Degree recipients Gwyn Morgan and David Schindler. While previous U of L connections to the Alberta Venture list include Sutherland's colleague Dr. Bruce MacNaughton, sociology researcher and trend tracker Dr. Reg Bibby, and U of L Chancellor Emeritus Richard Davidson.

Read the Alberta Venture profile and additional biographies of the other 49 individuals by following this link.