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A clinician-investigator and chief of the Division Neurology, Dr.Banwell's research interests center on multiple sclerosis onset during childhood and its impact.
Dr. Banwell’s dynamic research program on multiple sclerosis (MS) encompasses three main areas: neuroimaging characterization of MS in children, the clinical and cognitive impact of the condition, and the pathobiology of pediatric MS.
The main focus of her research has centered on better understanding the impact of MS when its onset occurs during childhood. Her work has shown that, even at MS onset, brain volume and skull size are reduced, and modeling growth trajectories demonstrate failure of age-expected brain growth during childhood, failure to reach maximal expected brain volumes, and progressive brain atrophy by mid-adolescence. Dr. Banwell’s research with diffusion tensor imaging has shown that even non-lesional, normal-appearing white matter has reduced structural integrity and that pediatric MS patients fail to demonstrate maturational gains in white matter tract structure. Functional MRI (fMRI) studies have shown altered resting state connectivity, and task-based fMRI analyses show increased connectivity of neural networks in cognitively intact adolescent MS patients.
On the clinical front, Dr. Banwell established one of the first dedicated pediatric MS clinics in 1999, and created a standardized clinical care algorithm and clinical database in order to evaluate the clinical impact of MS.
In addition, Dr. Banwell and her colleagues continue to study the pathobiology of pediatric MS and have shown that risk factors for MS are shared between pediatric- and adult-onset MS and that pediatric MS patients do not have heightened genetic susceptibility relative to adult-onset MS. The team has demonstrated that children with MS have impaired host-control of Epstein-Barr virus shedding, potentially linking this risk factor with a functional immune abnormality. Dr. Banwell and her colleagues also noted that aberrant immune profiles are present in spinal fluid of children with MS, and circulating immune profiles indicate altered balance between T cell effector and regulatory subsets.
Education and Training
MD, University of Western Ontario, 1991
Titles and Academic Titles
Chief, Division of Neurology
Co-Director, Neuroscience Center
Co-Director, Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Program
Professor of Pediatrics
Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Recipient, 2006
Women Against Multiple Sclerosis, Woman of the Year Award, 2007
Sidney Carter Award, American Academy of Neurology and The American Brain Foundation, 2015