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All curious community members are welcome, whether or not you're part of the Wisdom Exchange Project!

Upcoming Events

Making Brains from Brawn – The impacts of exercise for lasting brain health

Wednesday July 24th 1-2pm ET

Dr. Jonathan Thacker, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Sinai Health Systems & the University of Toronto


As people age, their brains undergo various changes that can impact cognitive function and memory. In its most basic form, our capacity to learn (and forget) stems from the ability of our brain cells to effectively strengthen (or weaken) the way in which they communicate. However, as our brain cells age, they have a reduced range in which they can turn up (strengthen) or down (weaken) these connections. This biological strategy is useful for maintaining strong memories across a lifetime but comes at the expense of a reduced ability to learn or form new memories in older adults. In this talk I will introduce you to the current scientific understanding of how memories form in our brain and how this process diminishes with age. We will also discuss strategies currently being investigated to revitalize our brain’s capacity for learning and prevent memory loss associated with age. Spoiler alert: this strategy is going to move you.  

Dr. Jonathan Thacker is a trained neuroscientist and emerging leader at the crossroads of exercise physiology, neurophysiology and neurological disease. His research investigates the ways in which our brain cells change to become more responsive to new information, and how harnessing this understanding can improve our capacity to form memory. By leveraging these findings Dr. Thacker is developing new treatments for neurodevelopmental (autism spectrum disorders) and neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s dementia). His approach aims to accelerate the bench-to-bedside process by improving the effectiveness of individual treatment sessions. He currently holds a Norm Hollend SHF Research Fellowship and is the inaugural recipient of the Willis-Green Postdoctoral Fellow in Alzheimer’s research.

Past 2024 Events

A Conversation About Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)


January 18, 2024



Dr. Roslyn Doctorow & Bina Feldman from Dying With Dignity Canada

Introduction to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Medical Assistance in Dying has been legal in Canada since 2016 and the legislation has recently been amended. Have you wondered who is eligible and what the process entails? This 30-minute presentation will provide a brief history of how MAID came into law; outline eligibility criteria as well as the application and assessment process; and describe what is next for existing legislation. A conversation with a resource person will follow; you are encouraged to send questions ahead of the presentation. Dr. Roslyn Doctorow has more than 40 years of experience in the field of education, including classroom teacher, consultant, curriculum developer and writer, assessment developer, researcher, and speaker. She is currently working part-time as an adjunct professor for Nova Southeastern University. Roz believes strongly in the mission of Dying With Dignity Canada and works on both the outreach and education components of the GTA Chapter. Bina Feldman has worked in the field of adult education for over 30 years.  She was the principal of her own company delivering Training & Development seminars, nationally and internationally. Bina is a retired professional trainer, consultant, performance coach and keynote speaker. She is pleased to be a part of Dying With Dignity Canada and making a contribution to educate the public about MAiD.

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Mapping and Bridging the Political Divide: Exploring Attitudes Towards Political Opponents


February 21, 2024



Dr. Jacklyn Koyama, University of Toronto

We live in a time where people have increasingly negative opinions about those who hold opposing political views to themselves. Research has shown these attitudes are quite consistent and extreme between liberals and conservatives. This talk explores individuals who don't fall neatly into one of these groups, but somewhere in between: political moderates. We show that there are still large groups of citizens whose political attitudes and feelings towards people they disagree with, are not as extreme as the liberal and conservative groups that are focused on in the news and media. We then describe progress on an intervention designed to increase cooperation between people who do strongly disagree on political topics. This talk highlights ways in which we are not as politically divided as it may seem, and how to bring individuals closer to compromise on political topics. Jacklyn Koyama is a social psychologist who earned her PhD at the University of Toronto (UofT) studying intergroup conflict and cooperation. Her work focuses primarily on two domains: political ideological conflict and the experiences of women in male-dominated workforces in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. She integrates a variety of methods in her work, including qualitative and quantitative analysis, machine learning, as well as behavioural and psychophysiological assessment. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at UofT's Data Science Institute looking at ways of identifying stressful social situations from physiological heart-activity data using machine learning methods.


Can the adult human brain generate new neurons?


April 11, 2024



Sophie Simard, McGill University

Sophie Simard is a PhD candidate at the Douglas Research Centre, working under the supervision of Dr Naguib Mechawar. She studies neurogenesis, a phenomenon where new neurons are generated in the brain. The existence of neurogenesis in the adult human hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory and the regulation of mood, was first discovered approximately twenty-five years ago. However, in recent years, the occurrence of neurogenesis in the adult human hippocampus has been widely debated within the scientific community due to the publication of several conflicting reports. The controversy surrounding this topic highlights the need to examine the full extent of this phenomenon in the human brain to understand its involvement in hippocampal functions and related pathologies, which include mental health disorders. In this talk, she will give an overview of the phenomenon and discuss why its existence in the human brain remains a controversial area of research.


Frailty and Its Impact on Those Living with Osteoarthritis


June 19, 2024



Dr. Selena Maxwell, Dalhouse University

Older adults live with different degrees of frailty, which impacts their individual risk of experiencing poor health outcomes as they age. We understand frailty as a combination of a person’s physical and mental health and their ability to live independently. Factoring frailty into how we care for older adults, particularly those living with chronic conditions, is necessary to ensure they get personalized recommendations and care plans. This talk will discuss how we understand frailty, the impact of frailty on osteoarthritis, as an example condition, and how frailty can be improved or avoided. Dr. Selena Maxwell is a postdoctoral researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS. Originally hailing from rural Ontario, she has calls Nova Scotia her home. Her research focuses on frailty and its impact on diseases of aging, like dementia and osteoarthritis. In her spare time, you can find her hiking the coastline, gardening, or sewing her own clothes.

2023 Events

Neural Evidence for Enhanced Perception in Autism

January 19, 2023

Erin Matsuba, Syracuse University

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by challenges with social communication and repetitive behaviours. Children with autism are often assumed to perform worse than neurotypical children across all domains. However, emerging evidence suggests that autistic children may have enhanced auditory perception, as their brain’s respond faster to sounds in their environment. This advantage in processing sounds may translate to other skills, such as music or languages, and points towards children with autism being different, not necessarily deficient.


Intergenerational Event Series

March 23, 2023

In collaboration with The McGill Community for Lifelong Learning (MCLL)

Kevin Da Silva Castanheira, McGill University
Linda Beck Sidel, Galerie 203

This monthly event series is meant to bring together younger and older generations around topics of common interest. For our first event, we will be talking about social isolation. We invited two speakers to talk about how social isolation impacts our brains, and how art can help us beat social isolation.

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A Review of Outcomes in Older Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury

March 21, 2023

Sophia Lopes, Drexel University

This talk will be focusing on Sophia’s Master’s thesis: A systematic review that seeks to synthesize the existing literature to identify factors associated with TBI functional outcomes in adults older than 60 years. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. Today, older adults aged 55 and older account for more than 46 million of the U.S. population; by 2050, that number is expected to grow to almost 90 million. Research indicates that older adults have poorer outcomes than their younger counterparts after TBI and that the severity of the TBI is positively associated with the severity of functional impairment. However, other factors predicting daily functional outcomes in older adults after TBI are unclear. A comprehensive understanding of these factors may assist clinicians in treating this growing population of older adults, gauging validated predictors for achieving more positive outcomes. Sophia is an MS graduate student at Drexel University and a neuropsychology technician at Global Neurosciences Institute. Her research interests include investigating factors related to functional outcomes in older adults with traumatic brain injury. Her clinical interests include aging, neuroimaging, adult and geriatric assessment, diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease, stroke, brain injury, and other neurological conditions, as well as cognitive rehabilitation. She likes socializing with friends, trying new restaurants, doing yoga, and catching up on her favorite shows in her spare time.

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Intellectual Humility, Political Polarization, and Misinformation

April 28, 2023

Shauna Bowes, Emory University

This talk will introduce and define intellectual humility. Results will be presented from three studies showing that intellectual humility is related to less political polarization and misinformation susceptibility. That is, intellectual humility may help people to not disparage political outgroup members, hold extreme political views, and turn to false information in times of uncertainty. In sum, intellectual humility is a compelling vehicle for understanding when, why, and how people form and hold certain beliefs over others. Shauna is a sixth-year Ph.D. student in Emory University’s clinical psychology doctoral program. She worked with the late Dr. Scott Lilienfeld and currently work with Dr. Arber Tasimi (Morality and Development Lab). Broadly, she is interested in how personality intersects with beliefs. Specifically, she focuses on intellectual humility and its potential implications for political polarization and misinformation susceptibility. In the long-term, she hopes to understand the building blocks of irrational thinking and leverage intervention science to help people make changes in their beliefs.


Factors Influencing Neuroplasticity and Resilience in Women’s Alzheimer’s Disease

May 12, 2023

Dr. Noelia Calvo, University of Toronto

Women are more affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD) than men, but the reasons for this phenomenon are still unknown. In this sense, it is crucial to understand resilience mechanisms that may delay cognitive impairment in women. Resilience has been at the heart of health research over the past decades to study how people achieve normal or better than expected outcomes despite exposure to healthy aging, neurodegeneration or stroke. In this sense, resilience can explain individual differences in rates of cognitive impairment and why people show different outcomes despite facing the same neurological disorders. In this seminar, I will discuss how linguistic diversity together with molecular mechanisms may be related to neuroplasticity and women’s resilience against Alzheimer’s disease. Noelia Calvo is a Linguist and PhD in Psychology from Argentina. She is now working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Einstein lab. Dr. Calvo researches risk and reserve proxies in dementia. She is particularly interested in the role of language, ethnicity and biological sex in Alzheimer’s disease. To understand the interactive effects of different social determinants of health, Dr. Calvo uses behavioral data (quantitative and qualitative) together with neuroimaging techniques, and multivariate analysis. The ultimate goal of her research is to facilitate and promote health equity in the study and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

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Brain-fingerprints Change Across the Lifespan

June 14, 2023

Jason da Silva Castanheria, McGill University

Brain fingerprinting is a new approach that is advancing our understanding of individual differences in both brain activity and its relations to behaviour. Recent work has demonstrated that individuals can be differentiated from each other using brief recordings of brain activity. These results propose that an individual’s brain activity is characteristic to themselves like a fingerprint left by your hand; but unlike the fingerprints left by the hand, brain-fingerprints can be used to predict cognitive abilities. Yet, little is known about how brain fingerprints change with age. I demonstrate how individuals from a large cohort can be differentiated from one another regardless of their age. On the other hand, the specific brain regions most useful for differentiating individuals differ between young and older adults. Brain regions that are more useful for differentiating young adults support cognition and abstract thought, while brain regions more typical of older adult brain-fingerprints are responsible for sensory and motor functions. These regions more typical of older-adults also demonstrate the greatest structural changes with age, and are sparse in specific neurochemical systems. Taken together, this study demonstrates the importance of considering differences in the most useful brain features to differentiate individuals when studying in populations with varying demographics and cognitive abilities. Jason is a PhD student at the IPN in Dr. Sylvain Baillet's lab. He studies individual differences in brain activity and how these differences are characteristic to people like a fingerprint. These so-called brain fingerprints are useful to understand brain-behaviour relationships and machine learning algorithms. His other research interests include consciousness, and the cognitive neuroscience of attention.


Intergenerational Event Series: Drawing to See Better - An Introduction


November 27, 2023



Yigu Zhou, McGill University

This pencil drawing session will focus on producing an interpretive sketch of a Japanese maple bonsai with the goal of exploring our subjective visual experiences looking at the same object. In a step-by-step tutorial, we will discuss well-known principles of illustrative art based on the biology of visual processing and attention. Yigu is a medical student and epilepsy research trainee at McGill with a passion for art and music. Yigu stays connected with her art as an instructor at community centers in Montreal, and practices cello during her free time.

2022 Events

WEP Volunteer Feature Part 1

January 24, 2022

Sarah Campbell, Trent University
Noah Khan, York University
Natalie Slavat, Toronto Metropoli University

We are featuring a lineup of Wisdom Exchange Project Volunteers who will each be giving a short 15 minute showcase of their research, with opportunities to engage with studies for a discussion and Q&A period.


WEP Volunteer Feature Part 2

February 17, 2022

Refilwe Mpai, McGill University
Magdelena Samulski, Trent University

​We are featuring a lineup of Wisdom Exchange Project Volunteers who will each be giving a short 15 minute showcase of their research, with opportunities to engage with studies for a discussion and Q&A period.

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Sleep On It: How Hormones and Good Sleep Promote Women’s Brain Aging

June 9, 2022

Dr. Nicole Gervais, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

By acknowledging the importance of biological sex (whether someone is male or female), medical research has made life-saving discoveries identifying different symptom profiles and treatment responses between men and women for conditions like heart attack and stroke. While neuroscience research still lags behind, we are learning that brain aging in women is different than in men, due in part to female-specific factors, like menopause. Lifestyle factors affecting brain aging are also influenced by biological sex, including sleep. In her talk, Nicole will summarize her recent research relating to the effects of early hormone loss on sleep, cognition, and brain structure. She will also discuss what implications this work has for brain aging, and whether interventions exist that might help women age better.


Your Brain and Music

July 28, 2022

Isabelle Arseneau-Bruneau, McGill University

Isabelle Arseneau-Bruneau is a doctoral researcher in Neuroscience at McGill University - Montreal Neurological Institute. She works under the supervision of Robert Zatorre and aims to better understand how playing musical instruments may help enhance our brain functions and auditory perception. Her research examines how the quality of auditory processing is modified when the sounds we perceive are generated by movements (such as when we play an instrument). Better knowledge of these mechanisms will help orient interventions in the clinic and educational environments. Her research is supported by the Fonds Québécois de Recherche en Santé (FQRS). Before her studies at McGill, Isabelle completed a Master's in Music & Human Learning at the University of Texas at Austin (2017) and worked as a research assistant at the SoundBrain (Chandrasekaran) Lab. She is also a professional musician, classically trained on the trumpet. She earned Music degrees from the Conservatoires de musique et d'art dramatique du Québec (2009), Laval University (2015), and pursued graduate studies in performance at The Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto (2009–2010).

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The Honeybee Affair: Investigating Cognitive Capacities Supported By Tiny Brains

August 23, 2022

Maria Bortot, University of Trento

Maria Bortot is a PhD student at CIMeC (University of Trento), under the supervision of Prof. Giorgio Vallortigara. In 2018 she obtained a master’s degree in Neuroscience and Neuropsychological Rehabilitation at the University of Padua with a final dissertation on the spontaneous use of absolute numerical rules in honeybees, based on the experiments conducted at the CRCA (Research Centre on Animal Cognition, University of Toulouse, France). In 2019, she obtained a research assistant position at the Animal Cognition Lab (CIMeC) to study the numerical abilities of bees. Using a behavioural perspective, she is currently investigating bees’ numerical and more general cognitive capacities. She is also studying different behavioural states, such as sleeping behaviour, investigating their possible links with bees’ learning and memory capacity.


Social Robots and Virtual Reality

October 26, 2022


Dr. Raheleh Saryazdi, KITE-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

Every day we engage in spoken conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and sometimes even strangers. Communicating with others and staying connected has benefits that go beyond the exchange of information, benefits that directly affect our well-being. However, the ability to communicate and the quality of communication changes as we age and technology is changing the ways we communicate. In my research, I have been exploring ways to enhance communication in older adults, particularly through the latest technologies. In one line of research, I focus on factors that influence effective communication between older adults and social robots, as these agents are currently being developed to provide companionship and assistance. In another line of research, I study whether we could use virtual reality to elicit and enhance conversations between persons with dementia and their family caregivers, in turn improving their connectedness and quality of life. Together, the goal of these studies is to inform the design of future technologies and contribute to promoting positive and successful communication in older adults.


Shame: A Multifaceted Emotion


November 28, 2022



Fanie Collardeau, University of Victoria

Shame is a self-conscious emotion that is both innate and strongly influenced by cultural and social factors. In North America, shame is frequently seen as a maladaptive, hard to regulate emotion that is best avoided. On the contrary, in China or Pakistan, for example, shame is a valued emotional experience. It is understood as a positive signal of one's moral self and as a marker for one's positionality in relationships. This talk will explore different ways of understanding shame across cultural contexts. Fanie is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include: shame, cultural psychology, the decentering of Western frameworks in psychological science as well as maternal mental health.

2021 Events

Stress, Lifestyle Behaviours, and Cognitive Health

April 15, 2021

Danielle D'Amico, Toronto Metropolitan University

Danielle D'Amico is a PhD student at Toronto Metropolitan University in Psychological Science and one of the coordinators behind WEP. She will be presenting her research on the effects of stress on cognitive health, and how engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviours (like healthy eating, exercise, social engagement, sleep, and mindfulness practices) may be able to mitigate the harmful impacts of stress on the brain.


Individual Differences in Healthy Brain Aging

May 18, 2021

Sivaniya Subramaniapillai, McGill University

This event is a joint collaboration between the Wisdom Exchange Project and McGill University Research Centre for Studies in Aging. Sivaniya Subramaniapillai will present her doctoral research on the role of protective lifestyle and social factors in promoting healthy living and the importance of investigating individual differences, such as sex/gender, for an individualized approach to healthy living. Make sure to tune in to have a lively discussion about the important role that individual differences and our environment have in shaping our cognitive health!


Connecting Across Generations

July 15, 2021

Dr. Floris Van Vugt &
Rhona Achtman, Université de Montréal

In this session, we will explore how people can connect across generations. The session will be held by Floris Van Vugt, who is starting his career as a university professor, and Rhona Achtman, who is a retired physiotherapist. Both are actively practicing Authentic Relating. We will share our thoughts, experiences and challenges, and based on these, we offer a number of interactive exercises that all are invited to participate in.


Aging, Memory, and the Medial Temporal Lobes

August 13, 2021

Jamie Snytte, McGill University

Aging comes with changes in many of the ways we perceive the world, act and go through our lives. Our cognitive processes, the way we think, remember and make decisions, also tend to fluctuate as we get older. Jamie's talk will focus on specific parts of the brain, within an area called the medial temporal lobes, that supports episodic memory. Some of these brain regions get smaller as we age, but our brains are plastic enough to compensate for these structural changes. While some regions shrink, other regions can work harder to maintain our memory abilities.


Dementia and Urban Planning


September 22, 2021


Dr. Samantha Biglieri, Toronto Metropolitan University

There has been a call to expand research on people living with dementia (PLWD) from health and social sectors to urban planning. The World Health Organization projects the number of PLWD to increase from 47 to 132 million worldwide by 2050, with 60-80% of PLWD residing within the community (as opposed to congregate living settings). For PLWD, being supported by their neighbourhoods in terms of access has many benefits: more social interaction, sense of worth, dignity, and improved physical/mental health. Being able to access your neighbourhood is a right, and for PLWD – this makes it integral to investigate how neighbourhoods influence their mobility and access. You will learn about how the design of suburban neighbourhoods impacts the ability of people living with dementia to get around based on research done in Waterloo, Canada, and what can be done to make city planning dementia-inclusive.

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The Effects of Music on the Health of Geriatric Patients


October 7, 2021


Dr. Julia Chabot,

St. Mary's Hospital Center

In this session, we will explore how people can connect across generations. The session will be held by Floris Van Vugt, who is starting his career as a university professor, and Rhona Achtman, who is a retired physiotherapist. Both are actively practicing Authentic Relating. We will share our thoughts, experiences and challenges, and based on these, we offer a number of interactive exercises that all are invited to participate in.


Atrial Fibrillation and Cognitive Impairment.


November 12, 2021



Dr. Mehrdad Golian, University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Dr. Mehrdad Golian, MD, is a cardiologist and invasive electrophysiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He completed his medical school training, internal medicine residencies and cardiology residencies at the University of Manitoba. Subsequently, Dr. Golian completed his fellowship training in electrophysiology at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto where he was highly regarded for his clinical and EP skills, as well as caring interactions with patients and staff. He completed a Master of Science in Healthcare Quality and patient Safety at Queen's University. He is currently the Deputy Quality Officer at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Director of the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic.

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