Affiliation(s): Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Dr. Feinstein is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He has a PhD and a master’s degree through the University of London, England. His expertise is in the neuropsychiatry of multiple sclerosis. This is best understood as the behavioral consequences of MS. He has researched behavioral disorders in people with multiple sclerosis for 26 years and runs a busy clinical practice in which over 80% of the patients have MS. Dr. Feinstein’s studies entail detailed neuropsychological testing, brain imaging (both structural and functional) and quantification of mood symptoms. The finding from research conducted by Dr. Feinstein are considered translational in that the findings from the lab are generally applicable to patient care. More recently, he has begun a series of studies looking at how cannabis might affect cognition and brain imaging in people with MS. His research has been supported by the MS Society of Canada, Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Progressive MS Alliance.
Dr. Feinstein was formerly Chair of the Medical Committee of the MS Society of Canada.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
I first became interested in multiple sclerosis research after my residency, which was in London, England. My PhD was devoted to detecting cognitive difficulties in people with MS and looking for correlates with brain MRI. This was a nascent field at the time and as such there was a very small literature on these topics. After completing my PhD, I continued to pursue my interest in multiple sclerosis. Indeed, it is fair to say that it was through my PhD that I developed a lifelong interest in this particular disorder and the behavioral consequence of it. I continue to remain an active researcher because there are so many unanswered questions. MS is a fascinating disease and the degree to which it can affect behavior across a wide domain has yet to be fully explored. While much more is known about the behavioral consequence of MS now compared to when I first entered the field the advances in technology are continuing to open up new research possibilities which ultimately benefits patient care.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
What I enjoy most about research is trying to be innovative. While I recognize that replication is of course important and essential, coming up with new findings which can affect the quality of patient care is rewarding. The challenges faced are those of obtaining funding in an increasingly competitive research environment and retaining bright young investigators who often want to move on to other opportunities because of better financial and work-related opportunities.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
Collaboration is essential for my research. To begin with, I could not begin to do my research without having good relationships with my colleagues in Neurology who refer patients to me, both clinically and for research purposes. I also collaborate with colleagues in Neuroimaging and Neuropsychology and more recently, Engineering. These links are pivotal to the success of my research work.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
The support from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has been integral to my research success. The Society has funded my studies looking at brain MRI correlates of depression, the development of computerized tests of cognition for people with MS, a series of studies exploring the cognitive and imaging changes linked to cannabis use in people with MS, the studies investigating the prevalence, clinical significance and cognitive correlates of pseudobulbar affect in people with MS and more recently the large multi-centre study looking at cognitive rehabilitation and exercise in people with progressive MS.