Editor’s Note: April 2011

April 1, 2011

When my father was a boy of eight, he suffered a grave injury. On Sunday mornings he'd climb into his parents' empty bed. They lived above the bank branch managed by my grandfather. My dad liked to read the weekend funny pages while the English housekeeper washed and tidied. Going about her duties, the housekeeper found the loaded revolver my grandfather kept under the bed. For reasons known only to her, she shot my father in the head. In 1928, in small-town Ontario, a kid rushed to emergency with an entry wound behind his ear and an exit wound that blew out his eye was not considered long for this world. But my father didn't die; indeed, he recovered to an astonishing degree. Apart from the destroyed eye, he seemed to suffer no permanent deficits.

Back then, we knew little about neuroplasticity-the ability of the brain, especially a young brain, to reorganize itself and redistribute its complex functions. Today we know a good deal more, thanks in part to Dr. Max Cynader, director of the Brain Research Centre at UBC. The son of Jews who fled Poland just before the Nazis invaded, he was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany not long after the Second World War. When he entered McGill University in Montreal at age 16 to study psychology, he thought he might become a therapist. (His middle name is Sigmund.) Instead he became fascinated by neuroscience and went on to get his PhD from MIT in Boston. He's spent 45 years studying the brain, especially the ways in which its early use affects its lifetime functionality. For all his academic honours and titles, though, his enduring legacy may prove to be the multidisciplinary Centre for Brain Health, the first of its kind in the world, soon to be built at UBC.

Cynader is a highly articulate fellow whose playful, elfin exterior hides a formidable mind. Brain injury has been much in the news lately, thanks to war veterans, concussed athletes, and an Arizona congresswoman who, like my father, was shot in the head by a lunatic. Cynader has fascinating things to say about neuroplasticity, neuro-trauma, and brain health, as you'll discover in the Q&A here.—Gary Stephen Ross

CONTRIBUTORS

Ian Azariah returned last year to Vancouver, having left at age two. For this issue, he photographed war resister Rodney Watson, shooting on film rather than digitally. "It's a hands-on craftsmanship thing," he says. "When you're shooting film, you just have to go with the moment and trust your gut"

Christina Burridge is Vancouver's wine columnist; this month she shares sherry picks and pairings. A wine writer since 1986, she's also an expert on West Coast seafood, serving on many government advisory committees and spearheading the drive to independently certify major commercial fisheries

Scott Steedman has been soccer crazed since an early age. An Arsenal and Paris St-Germain fan, he's been starved of live games since he returned to Vancouver in 2001; little wonder he was enthusiastic about profiling the Whitecaps and Bobby Lenarduzzi

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