Neurobiology of Depression: Insights from different treatment techniques


Dr. Andrew Howard ~ Deep Brain Stimulation

Dr Howard will highlight what he has learned from ten years of experience with deep brain stimulation of the subcallosal gyrus for treatment-refractory major depression. He aims to present a transparent, unbiased view of the current landscape of deep brain stimulation for depression as well as hypotheses on why subcallosal gyrus deep brain stimulation has helped some and failed others.

Dr. Joseph Tham ~ Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy has been in use since the late 1930’s and continues to be an important therapeutic modality since then in the treatment of severe depressive illness. Dr Tham will discuss current practice and ideas on mechanisms of activity.

Dr. Hassan Azim ~ Psychoanalysis for Depression

Dr Azim will make a case for the role of psychoanalysis in the reversal of adverse consequences culminating in depression. Specifically, experiential, epigenetic, and developmental factors will be considered.

Panel discussion and wine and cheese reception to follow!

Thursday November 26th, 6:00pm @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital


Neuroscience in Education

Neuroscience in education slide show


Jenn Ferris ~ MSc student, The Brain Behavior Laboratory, UBC

Recent advances in neuroplasticity research are changing the way we think about learning and development across the lifespan. Jenn will review recent findings about neuroplasticity in children, and will examine the implications of neuroplasticity research for childhood education and working with learning disability.

Dr. Rachel Weber, PhD ~ Assistant Professor, School Psychology, UBC

The skills known as executive functions contribute widely to lifespan development and underlie childhood academic, social, and behavioral success. Dr Weber will describe how these skills are sensitive to injury and insult but are also amenable to change, making them an important consideration when discussing both risk and resilience in children.

Howard Eaton ~ Founder/Director, Eaton Arrowsmith 

Howard Eaton will focus his talk on the value of cognitive training in the lives of children with learning disabilities.  Does cognitive training override the value of curriculum instruction for children struggling in school?  Howard speaks from his experience as the Founder/Director of the Eaton Arrowsmith Schools in Vancouver, BC and Redmond WA, and as the Research Director for the Arrowsmith Program.

Panel discussion and wine and cheese reception to follow

Tuesday, Oct 27 2015, 6:30pm @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital


2014/2015 Season Summary

The 2014/2015 BrainTalks season was a huge success! We hosted six stimulating events and reached some of our highest attendance rates ever! Thanks to everyone who made it out – it was great to see so many new faces in the crowds this year. In case you missed out, here’s a summary of what went on:

Panel discussion In November we kicked off the season with a series of lectures by Dr. Virji-Babul, Dr. Cheryl Wellington, and Dr. Will Paneka on “Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion”. In case you missed out, these three experts will be speaking again on June 11, 2015 at the alumniUBC event “School of Hard Knocks: What Have we Learned about Sports Concussion”.

The new year was brought in in January with a lineup of some of the best up-and-coming scientists in the field of “Robotics and Rehabilitation”: Navid Shirzad, Nick Snow, and AJung Moon, who covered everything from gaming on social media, applications of a robotic wrist exoskeleton, and current controversies in roboethics.

In February, the topic of “Mental Illness and Addiction in the Downtown Eastside” was tackled by Dr. Bill MacEwan, and Dr. Bill Honer who spoke about the HOTEL study, and Dr. Alan Bates who described the benefits and challenges of the Vancouver Street Soccer League

held some incredibly fascinating talks by Adrian Byram, Dr. Alan Bates, and Dr. Mark Ansermino , who spoke on mysterious “Disruptions of Consciousness” in vegetative states, delirium, and general anesthesia.

April’s event was  our most popular of the season: “A Seminar on Mindfulness” with Dr. Andrea Grabovac, Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl,  and Dr. Dzung Vo. These three ca
ptured and inspired the audience by advocating for the benefits of mindfulness in children, teens, and adults.

To wrap up the season in May, we heard about “New Topics in Psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” described by Dr. Donna Dryer, Dr. Richard Yensen, and Dr. Devon Christie. Find out more about the ongoing clinical trial using MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy MAPS Canada.



We would like to thank each of the speakers who took the time to share their knowledge this year. Also, BrainTalks is a volunteer-run event. We extend a huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated their time throughout the season!

See you next fall!

~The BrainTalks team

New Topics in Psychotherapy for PTSD



Dr. Devon Christie, MD CCFP ABIHM GPPA ~ The science and clinical applications of mindfulness practices in the context of trauma history

Dr. Donna Dryer, MD, FRCPC & Dr. Richard Yensen, PhD ~ MDMA combined with psychotherapy for people with treatment-resistant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Panel discussion and wine and cheese reception to follow

Thursday, May 28 2015, 6pm @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital


A Seminar on Mindfulness

Mindfulness(pic only)



Dr. Andrea Grabovac, MD, FRCPC – Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC, and consultant psychiatrist in the Brief Intervention Unit at VGH

  • Dr. Grabovac will review a precise and practical definition of mindfulness and clarify some common misconceptions about this often misunderstood term.  She will then present a simplified traditional Buddhist framework for understanding how mindfulness results in clinical benefits, such as when used for the treatment of depression.  She will give an overview of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for the prevention of depressive relapse, which has been shown in numerous clinical studies to decrease relapse rates of depression by 50 percent.  She will describe the MBCT program at VGH and share local MBCT resources.  

Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, PhD – Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education in the Faculty of Education, and Interim Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership in the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC

  • Dr. Schonert-Reichl will begin with a brief review of research that has emerged that demonstrates the importance of promoting children’s social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools and describe how recent innovations in developmental neuroscience and mindfulness can inform these efforts. She will then highlight her own research evaluating a universal school-based social and emotional competence promotion program that incorporates mindfulness practices – MindUP  — a program developed from research and theory in the fields of developmental neuroscience, mindful attention awareness, SEL, and positive psychology.  A discussion of both processes and mechanisms that underlie children’s social and emotional development i and practical implications for the promotion of children’s self-regulation, empathy, compassion, and kindness will be discussed.

Dr. Dzung Vo, MD, FAAP – Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, and Director of the Adolescent Medicine Fellowship Program at BC Children’s Hospital

  • Dr. Vo will describe clinical mindfulness-based interventions with youth to promote resilience and healthy coping with depression, anxiety, pain, and chronic illness. He will discuss considerations in teaching mindfulness to youth in a developmentally appropriate manner. He will describe the MARS-A (Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents) program at BC Children’s Hospital, and share mindfulness resources for teens and families. See a recent interview with Dr. Vo in UBC News here.

Panel discussion and wine and cheese reception to follow

Tuesday, April 21 2015, 6:30pm @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital



Disruptions of Consciousness

Disruptions of consciousness



Adrian Byram, MSc ~ Research Associate on fMRI of persistent vegetative states

Dr. Alan Bates, MD, PhD ~ Psychiatrist on Delirium

Dr. Mark AnserminoMMed, MSc, FRCPC ~ Anesthesiologist on Levels of Consciousness

Free wine and cheese reception to follow

Monday March 16, 2015, 6pm, @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital


Mental Illness & Addiction in the Downtown Eastside

Thursday, February 26, 2015, 6pm


Dr. Alan Bates, MD, PhD, founder of ‘Portland FC’, a street soccer team for people affected by homelessness

Dr. William MacEwan, MD, FRCPC Clinical Professor in Psychiatry

Dr. William Honer, MD, FRCPC, FCAHS, Professor & Head of Psychiatry, Scientific Director of the BC Mental Health and Addictions Research Institute, Jack Bell Chair in Schizophrenia


Talks at 6 pm, followed by panel discussion and wine and cheese reception

Paetzold Auditorium, Jim Pattison Pavilion, Vancouver General Hospital



Robotics and Rehabilitation



Navid Shirzad, PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, RREACH Lab ~ Rehabilitation Robotics

Nick Snow, Masters Science Student in Rehabilitation Sciences ,  Brain Behaviuor Lab ~ Robo-Wrist Rehabilitation

AJung Moon, PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering , Vanier Scholar, CARIS Lab ~ Robo-Ethics

Navid: The healthcare sector is increasingly becoming dependent on medical devices and technologies. This is facilitated, in part, by the emphasis that is being put on the robustness of the design of medical and rehabilitation devices. The robustness of the design, and thus the adoption of a new medical device, relies heavily on its ability to fit into the multifaceted medical environment and satisfy a wide range of user needs. In order to achieve this, users and stakeholders must be involved early and frequently in the design process. In his talk, Navid will outline a user-centred approach to design of physical therapy devices using a case study on developing an upper-body motor rehabilitation platform.

Nick: The utilities and applications of rehabilitation robotics interventions for human movement disorders have grown in breadth and depth throughout the past several years. Particularly in stroke, rehabilitation robotics has been a rapidly advancing area of research; however, the clinical efficacy of such interventions has not yet been fully established. Especially in upper limb therapy, robotics interventions have been shown to increase and decrease elements of motor function and impairment, respectively; and novel research is seeking to investigate the applicability of combining noninvasive brain stimulation with robotic devices. Nick’s presentation will provide an overview of current rehabilitation robotics research in upper-limb therapy for persons with stroke and discuss the clinical efficacy of such interventions.

AJung: As interactive robots become substantially more accessible to the general public in the near future, one of the main concerns for designers  is in implementing socially acceptable and ethical human-robot interaction for non-expert users.  One approach to addressing this concern is to develop a robot that can take advantage of human moral decision making – much of which are suggested to be based on intuition and strongly connected with the emotional part of the human brain, rather than the rational part of the brain.  In her talk, AJung will present the promising, yet cautionary, tales of the moral synergy robots and humans can create.

Free wine and cheese reception to follow.

January 21, 2015, 6pm @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital


Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion

Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion


Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul, PT, PhD, Assistant Professor ~ Physiotherapy
Dr. Cheryl Wellington, PhD, Professor ~ Pathology
Dr. William Panenka, MD, FRCPC, Assistant Professor ~ Psychiatry

Free wine and cheese reception to follow

November 27, 2014, 6pm @ Paetzold Auditorium, Vancouver General Hospital

RSVP here

Social Event

The BrainTalks organizing committee gathered together with new and returning volunteers on Oct 2nd to plan out the exciting upcoming 2014/2015 season.