Max S. Cynader

Canada Research Chair in Brain Development

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
The University of British Columbia
Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Research involves

Interdisciplinary neuroscience and genetic research to better understand the processes and mechanisms that alter usage dependency in visual systems during their postnatal development.

Research relevance

Findings may result in improved techniques to prevent, treat or correct problems related to the brain function, and enhance human learning capabilities.

Exposing the Keys to Brain Development

Over the last thirty years, researchers have discovered that brain development in humans and a variety of animal species depends on two things: pre-programmed developmental events, and the environment encountered during postnatal development. This is especially true in the visual system.

Research studying the visual systems of different species has illustrated that if eyes are given unequal exposure during their postnatal period of development, then the strength of the respective developing neural pathways will be altered forever. For example, under normal conditions, both eyes develop equal functional connections with the cortex. But when one eye is covered to prevent its use, even for as little as three hours during the critical period of early life, it develops a weaker than normal functional connection with the cortex, while the uncovered eye forms a stronger than usual bond. The diminished connection creates irreversible, lower vision capacity in the weakened eye. Conversely, similar exposure in adult animals has no effect on their cortical connections or visual capabilities.

As Senior Chair in Brain Development, Dr. Max Cynader is committed to advancing understanding of the neural processes that contribute to phenomena like these. He also seeks to uncover the molecular mechanisms that trigger such occurrences during the critical periods in postnatal development of young animals but prevent them in adults. Along with his formidable team, Dr. Cynader is developing state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques, novel uses of gene microarrays, innovative bioinformatics tools, and cutting edge software to achieve his objectives.

Having led neuroscience research in Canada for more than twenty-five years, Dr. Cynader is ideally suited for his new position. Despite rapid change in this evolving field, he remains one of the top contributors, and holds an international reputation for award-winning research.

The outcomes of his latest endeavors will prove invaluable to neuroscientists, and to research and development in key areas such as genetics, health and human development.