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Montreal Neurological Institute celebrates 75 years

Locally known as the Neuro, this institution was founded by Wilder Penfield.

By LÉO CHARBONNEAU | FEB 08 2010

In November 1934, after years of planning and deliberation, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital opened its doors. It has, in the intervening years, become one of the most successful research and clinical institutes in Canada (its splendid Art Deco lobby is seen above).

The Neuro – as it’s collectively known to locals – is part of McGill University. It was brought to life by the inspiration and drive of Wilder Penfield, its founding director. His vision was to create an institute with doctors and researchers, all under one roof, dedicated to the brain and nervous system. This structure became a new possibility for institutions around the world and gave hope for those suffering from debilitating conditions from epilepsy to stroke to Parkinson’s disease.

“For most of the world, the model is to create a big hospital and stick on these little institutes. There’s not very much cross-talk between clinicians and researchers,” current director David Colman told the McGill Reporter recently. Dr. Penfield, instead, put the hospital directly within the research institute. The result: much fertile collaboration, with clinicians applying the discoveries of basic research to improve patient care.

The Neuro is the largest neuroscience training centre in Canada, with more than 160 faculty members and 280 graduate students. It celebrated its anniversary with a two-day symposium highlighting the latest advances in research and clinical care that included presentations by several Nobel Prize winners.

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