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NSERC Prizes 2018: Yves De Koninck and Réal Vallée

Université Laval


Video Name

NSERC Prizes 2018: Yves De Koninck and Réal Vallée


NSERC Communications



Release Date

May 1, 2018


This unique team of researchers at Université Laval’s Cervo Brain Research Centre and the Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers, is collaborating on the next generation of neuroscience tools. Using their combined expertise in neuroscience, photonics, fibre-optics technology and materials sciences, the researchers have developed a series of innovations that are allowing researchers to observe neurons in dialogue. Thanks to the Université Laval team’s breakthroughs, we are learning vast amounts about conditions such as pain, mental health and various neurological diseases. Ultimately, we will use this knowledge to understand how drugs work on the brain and develop new treatments and better pharmaceuticals.

Yves De Koninck

The brain - understanding the brain - is the real problem, the issue for our century. So, 15 years ago, faced with this challenge, I and the people we have here in the optics, photonics and laser team, we launched a program, and the goal was to further the tools of tomorrow, all sorts of light-based tools, to try to penetrate the mysteries of the brain.

Réal Vallée

The work that we have done in collaboration with the neuroscience team is, essentially, aimed to develop probes that can capture not only electrical signals, but also optical signals that come from neurons. So, what’s special about what we have done, is that we have successfully developed probes that operate at the cellular level to capture both the electrical signal and the optical signal. Special optical fibres are then produced which have applications in various fields, including the biomedical field.

Yves De Koninck

If we want to move forward here, we have to work together - biologists, people from the biomedical sector, physicists and mathematicians. And this capacity to really mesh the different disciplines, I think that it’s one of the avenues that will be the most fruitful for - for the future of understanding the brain.

Réal Vallée

Ultimately, if we can better understand how the brain works at a cellular level - or even at the molecular level - we believe that, eventually, we will be able to treat a number of brain diseases, particularly degenerative diseases.

Yves De Koninck

So, by putting people together, some of them will sometimes - come up with issues, and others will sometimes come up with technological developments. That’s where the sparks fly and the ideas for innovation are ignited.