What I Do
Our brain is the most precious organ in our body. When it malfunctions, we suffer. We can forget even our nearest relatives, we can feel pain even when we shouldn’t, we can hallucinate, or we cannot perform even the simplest movements. The brain has many diseases, and a lot of people are affected by them. Why do we still have no answers to these major medical problems? Why can’t we cure the patients suffering from brain disorders?
The overarching reason is that we still do not understand the causes of and the mechanisms underlying many of these diseases. Why? Because studying brain disorders with humans is difficult. That's why scientists try to investigate these questions using animals.
The zebrafish is one such animal species. Surprisingly, this little fish species resembles humans in many ways, and scientists can exploit these similarities and study human conditions, diseases and biological functions, in a simplified manner using this animal species.
At the University of Toronto, I study how the laboratory environment in which the zebrafish develop and live affects their brain function and behavior, including their ability to learn and remember. Having an understanding of what constitutes a beneficial or detrimental environment will allow researchers worldwide to establish better laboratory conditions for this species and in turn will improve the quality of their results. For example, healthier zebrafish will allow them to detect changes in how the brain of these fish responds to genetic mutations, environmental toxins, or pills that are under development for pharmacies.At the Hospital for Sick Children, I helped lead the re-establishment of the middle cerebral arterial occlusion surgical model, a procedure that has not been successfully achieved at the Research Institute for the last 25 years.