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Keynote Speaker

Brian A. MacVicar, PhD. FRSC, FCAHS


Photo of Brian MacVicar

New roles for pericytes and astrocytes in the function, repair and regeneration of cerebral blood vessels

Co-Director, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health
University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health


Dr. MacVicar’s research has focused on the interactions between nerve cells and the surrounding support cells of the brain called glia.  In 1984 he was the first to show that glia previously thought to be inert can display neuronal-like active ion currents and responses to transmitters. Since then his work has shown that that glia are not just supporting cells but are active participants in brain activity, both responding to and altering activity of nerve cells. His work has shown that astrocytes, one type of glial cell, can alter cerebral blood flow by directly constricting or dilating blood vessels in the brain.  Dr. MacVicar’s lab has also shown how neuroinflammation acts on another type of glia, called microglia, to disrupt neuronal communication by causing a new form of long term depression possibly leading to memory deficits. These studies on glia published in Nature, Science and Neuron have transformed our concepts of how brain activity is controlled and on how cerebral blood flow is maintained to support a healthy level of brain activity. Dr. MacVicar’s lab has also made several groundbreaking discoveries on the changes to nerve cells when stroke occurs by showing that pannexin channels open disrupting nerve cell integrity thereby pointing to new targets for preventing neuronal death during stroke. His latest work, published in Cell, describes his recent discovery of a key but unexpected neuronal chloride channel that is required for brain edema or swelling and maybe a novel therapeutic target to prevent brain damage from traumatic brain injury.

Dr. MacVicar received his PhD from the University of Toronto. He completed postdoctoral training at New York University Medical School. He has held multiple professorships during his career: 1983-2003, Assist, Assoc and Professor, Dept Physiology and Biophysics, Univ. Calgary; 2003-present Professor, Department of Psychiatry UBC, Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience; 2015-present, Co-Director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH) at the University of British Columbia.

Past Keynote Speakers