Brian Bland was born in Calgary Alberta, Canada, on the 10th of July, 1943. He married Cheryl Elaine on July 4th, 1964. Together they have three wonderful children: Colleen Leanne Bland, Kevin Herbert Bland, and their loveable dog Sammy. His pastimes include fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and playing the guitar and harmonica.
Brian Bland was appointed as Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary, July 1, 1974 and promoted to Full Professor on July 1, 1981. He was appointed Head of the Department of Psychology on July 1, 1995 and following the completion of his second 5-year term in 2006 will have completed 11 years in this capacity. The Department of Psychology is the second largest department at the University of Calgary. Prior to his appointment as Head, Bland Chaired the University Animal Welfare Committee from 1989 to 1995 and in this capacity was responsible for centralizing the animal care facilities on campus and for instituting common standard operating procedures. The Canadian Council on Animal Care recognized these achievements in 1994 through the Awards of Excellence for Large Universities to the University of Calgary and to Brian Bland. Among a number of his achievements as Head, Bland is responsible for the establishment of Alberta 's only Clinical Psychology Program completely within the Department of Psychology as well as the organization of its current 7 research programs. Bland has contributed to the training of many students over the years through membership on sixty supervisory and examination committees, the supervision of numerous BSc Honour's students, eighteen graduate students and 3 post-doctoral fellows. His teaching contributions have been recognized by the Faculty of Social Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award and the Graduate Student's Association Teaching Excellence Award. Many of his graduate students have gone on to successful academic careers in Canada and abroad. As an indication of his reputation in research, scientists from Canada and abroad have come to work with him, including Ian Whishaw, Canada, Gyorgy Buzsaki, Hungary, Jan Konopacki, Poland and, Yasuhiro Hanada and Kiyohisa Natsume, Japan.
Bland has made a number of contributions to science policy during his career. At the provincial level he participated in Phase 1 of the Alberta Science and Research Authority for determining research priorities for Alberta . At the national level he was appointed for a 3-year term (1982-1985) on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Psychology Grants Committee. During this period Bland and Bryan Kolb also carried out the first regular NSERC non-grievance site visits to western Canadian universities from Brandon , Manitoba through to Victoria , British Columbia . Also at the national level, Bland has served as Chairman of Canadian Council on Animal Care Assessment Panels from 1991 to 1999. At the international level, he served as International Reviewer for the Application for Recognition by the University of Paris VII of the Psychopharmacology and Cognitive Processes Team (1996) and was the Behavioral Neuroscience Consultant for a successful National Institutes of Health SCORE grant for the Neuroscience Program, University of Texas , Brownsville . Bland has served as a reviewer for books, national and international granting agencies and numerous scientific journals, including the top rated journals in the field of neuroscience. He became a Founding Board member of the International Journal Hippocampus in 1989, and was promoted to Reviewing Editor in 2002. Bland was also appointed as a Founding Board member of the International Journal of Cognitive Informatics and Natural Intelligence in 2005.
Bland completed his MSc degree at the University of Calgary in 1968, under the supervision of R.M. Cooper. In his Master's research he was the first to investigate the interaction between early versus late brain damage to visual cortex and impoverished and enriched environments. The publication of his findings made an early contribution to the importance of looking at these variables in terms of recovery from brain damage. Bland completed his PhD degree at the University of Western Ontario in 1971, under the supervision of C.H. Vanderwolf. When Bland began his studies on the diencephalic and hippocampal mechanisms of motor activity, Vanderwolf had just published his now classic work on the relationship of hippocampal theta activity to voluntary movement. Bland extended the validity of Vanderwolf's findings, based on the spontaneous generation of hippocampal theta activity and behavior, to the elaboration of the neural circuitry involved in these relationships, particularly the ascending brainstem pathways. These contributions were acknowledged in the recently published book, “An Odyssey Through the Brain, Behavior and the Mind” by C.H. Vanderwolf. The awarding of an NRC NATO Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 1971 enabled Bland to spend two years working with internationally acclaimed hippocampal electrophysiology expert Per Andersen, at the Institute of Neurophysiology , Oslo , Norway . Work during this time resulted in the publication of the first demonstration that hippocampal output fibres are organized in a lamellar manner, the finding of a second generator of hippocampal theta in the dentate region (discovered independently at the same time by Jonathon Winson at Rockefeller University), and the first detailed account of the spike train dynamics of hippocampal neurons associated with extracellular theta field activity. Bland was also able to learn the new in vitro hippocampal slice technique and later became the first scientist to introduce this model at the University of Calgary . Upon his return from Norway , Bland spent some time again working with Case Vanderwolf and as a result became a co-author on a paper that was the first demonstration of two pharmacologically distinct hippocampal theta field activities in rodents, termed Type 1 and Type 2 theta, the latter being cholinergically mediated. Following a year of learning advanced neuropharmacological techniques with J.W. Phillis at the University of Saskatchewan , Bland set up his own laboratory at the University of Calgary . He and his students carried out seminal work on the development of hippocampal theta rhythms and were the first to demonstrate that theta cells discharged rhythmically during cholinergically-mediated Type 2 theta, as well as during Type 1 theta. Further work demonstrated that the discharges of the cholinergically mediated theta cells were related to sensory processing preceding voluntary movement.
In 1986 Bland published an invited review article in Progress in Neurobiology, summarizing his work and its relation to the work of others in the field. The review was well received and has become a standard reference in the theta literature (490 citations to date). In the same year, Bland and colleagues published the first demonstration of theta field activity induced in a hippocampal slice preparation by bath perfusion of carbachol, based on some earlier observations he had made in Norway . This paper and the following 7 or 8 papers were initially ridiculed by other scientists in the field, claiming it was simply epileptic field activity. The carbachol slice model is now an accepted model of theta band oscillation and synchrony and is used by scientists world-wide. In other work, Bland and a Post-Doctoral Fellow from Uruguay , Luis Colom, discovered a second type of hippocampal neuron related to theta field activity. Instead of becoming activated during theta field activity, as the other documented neurons were, these cells were inhibited. This discovery became the basis of the first and only comprehensive hippocampal theta-related cell classification system to date, demonstrating the existence of theta-ON and theta-OFF cells. Further work in many other limbic brain structures has revealed that these two cell types are the basis of theta band oscillation and synchrony in the brain. Very recent intracellular recording and staining work in Bland's lab has revealed the anatomical identity of these two neuron types in the hippocampal formation. Another line of research has documented the structures involved in the ascending brainstem hippocampal synchronizing pathways. Behavioral work based on the findings of acute experiments over the years has culminated in the development of Bland's senorimotor integration model of the functional significance of the hippocampus and related structures. A recently published update of the model has received world-wide attention and increasing acceptance. Bland's research activities have received successful continual funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. He is the only Psychologist at the University of Calgary listed on the NSERC 25 Anniversary web site for having received continuous funding.