EpLink is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews as a new co-director of the research program. Dr. McAndrews will join the existing directorship of Dr. Mac Burnham and Dr. Jorge Burneo.
Dr. McAndrews is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto and the director of the Neuropsychology Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital. She is also a Senior Scientist at the Krembil Research Institute. Dr. McAndrews received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and completed her post-doctoral work at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Her current research focuses on how the brain organizes and retrieves memories, and how these processes are disrupted when the brain is damaged from repeated seizures. Seizures often begin in the temporal lobe, an area of the brain that plays an important role in memory. As a result, many people with epilepsy experience memory problems, and Dr. McAndrews is investigating how specific types of memory may be affected. She and her team are currently running a research study that combines functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – a type of brain scan that shows active brain areas – with electrical recordings of brain activity. These tests can be done when individuals are doing specific language and memory tasks, providing key insights into how memory and language areas are organized within the brain.
She also has a strong interest in understanding how different brain areas work together as a network to carry out memory and language tasks. It is especially important to identify these networks ahead of time in people who are having epilepsy surgery. Removing the area of the brain where seizures start can lead to seizure freedom, but surgeons must avoid the areas responsible for critical functions, such as speech, language and memory. Dr. McAndrews and her team have found that the connections between the hippocampus (a structure in the temporal lobe that is crucial for memory) and several other brain structures can predict the degree of memory loss when the hippocampus is removed during epilepsy surgery. In addition, the brain may be able to reorganize itself after surgery by creating new pathways in order to maintain function. Dr. McAndrews is studying how the process of reorganization occurs, and what factors promote it in certain individuals and prevent it in others. She also hopes to identify why some people are more resistant to diseases or disorders of the brain, which will enable more personalized treatments and better health outcomes.
The EpLink leadership team warmly welcomes Dr. McAndrews!