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banwellb [at]
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10th Floor

3501 Civic Center Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Research Topics
Brenda L. Banwell, MD
Brenda L. Banwell
Chief, Division of Neurology

A clinician-investigator and chief of the Division Neurology, Dr.Banwell's research interests center on multiple sclerosis onset during childhood and its impact.



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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

Attending Physician

Professor of Pediatrics

Professional Awards

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

Publication Highlights

Aubert-Broche B, Weier K, Longoni G, Fonov VS, Bar-Or A, Marrie RA, Yeh EA, Narayanan S, Arnold DL, Verhey LH, Banwell B, Collins DL. Monophasic demyelination reduces brain growth in children. Neurology. 2017 May; 88(18):1744-1750. PMID: 28381515
Akbar N, Giorgio, A, Till C, Sled J, Doesburg S, De Stefano N, Banwell B. Alterations in Functional and Structural Connectivity in Pediatric-Onset Multiple Sclerosis. PloS One. 2016 Jan; 11(1): e0145906, 2016. PMCID: PMC4701472
Aubert-Broche B, Fonov V, Narayanan S, Arnold DL, Araujo D, Fetco D, Till C, Sled JG, Banwell B, Collins DL. Onset of multiple sclerosis before adulthood leads to failure of age-expected brain growth. Neurology. 2014 Dec; 3(23):2140-6. PMCID: PMC4276405
Verhey LH, Branson HM, Shroff MM, Callen DJ, Sled JG, Narayanan S, Sadovnick AD, Bar-Or A, Arnold DL, Marrie RA, Banwell B. MRI parameters for prediction of multiple sclerosis diagnosis in children with acute CNS demyelination: a prospective national cohort study. Lancet Neurol. 2011 Dec; 10(12):1065-73. PMID: 22067635