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London, Ont. to host several events in June in memory of Afzaal family – London |

London, Ont. to host several events in June in memory of Afzaal family - London |

The city will host a slate of community events in early June as organizers look to honour the four members of the Afzaal family who were killed in last year’s targeted vehicle attack in northwest London, Ont.

In what marked the deadliest mass murder in London’s history, the attack on June 6, 2021, targeted a local Muslim family out for an evening walk in the city’s Hyde Park neighbourhood.

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London, Ont. council committee recommends June 6 as ‘Day of Remembrance’ for Afzaal family

They were struck by a pickup truck in what police have labelled a hate crime that targeted the family based on their religion.

Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzaal were killed in the attack. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but survived.

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From left to right: Yumna Afzaal, Madiha Salman, Salman Afzaal and Talat Afzaal.

Supplied by family

A full list of the events is available now on a dedicated webpage on the City of London’s website.

They include an Our London Family March on June 5 which will have participants travel from Oakridge Secondary School to the London Muslim Mosque.

There will also be a vigil on June 6 at the site of the attack itself.

The Youth Coalition Combatting Islamophobia (YCCI) is one of the lead organizers for the upcoming events and coordinator Selma Tobah says there’s a significance to where the vigil is being held.

“It’s this notion of reclaiming this space and saying this intersection, this area where the attack occurred will no longer be marred by the violence itself, but by the remembrance of the beautiful lives that were taken,” Tobah said.

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Click to play video: 'How to speak with your kids about the London attack on a Muslim family'

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How to speak with your kids about the London attack on a Muslim family – Jun 14, 2021

YCCI was formed in the wake of the June 6 killings and is made up of young Londoners who were personally impacted by the attack, particularly those who were close with Yumna.

“That’s really been the purpose of this coalition is to give these young people an avenue to use their voice in a way that’s productive and in a way that they feel is healing and really honours their friend that was murdered in this attack,” said Tobah.

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September 2023 trial date set in London, Ont. attack on Muslim family

Amplifying youth voices was one of the recommendations that came out of London’s Action Plan to Disrupt Islamophobia, the result of months of consultation with local stakeholders that followed the June 6 attack.

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London’s anti-racism and anti-oppression director Rumina Morris, who had a leading role in developing the action plan, says the upcoming events also follow through on another suggestion that emerged from those consultations.

“People in the community were really looking for the city to take the lead in terms of bringing people together, so not leading to organize, but to bring people together and make those connections,” Morris said.

Some of the people being brought together include the London Muslim Mosque, the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards, the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Service Integration and the London Public Library to name a few.

Read more:

London, Ont. officials unveil ‘Action Plan to Disrupt Islamophobia’

Behind the scenes, Morris says police and other emergency services are working to make sure the events stay safe.

She hopes the anniversary will provide an opportunity for reflection for all Londoners.

“The days after the attack, I think everybody was in absolute shock that this has happened in our community and the impact of it was really, really intense in terms of emotions,” Morris said.

“I don’t think the emotions are going to be any less intense, but I certainly see it as an opportunity to really reflect on what we have done since that one year and how we are really – as a community – coming together … to really address Islamophobia in all of its forms.”

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Biological events occurring during puberty trigger sex differences in learning and memory

Biological events occurring during puberty trigger sex differences in learning and memory

New research from the University of California, Irvine reveals that sex differences in learning and memory mechanisms are triggered by biological events occurring during puberty. Findings show prepubescent female rodents have much better hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) and spatial learning than same-age males, but puberty has opposite consequences for synaptic plasticity in the two sexes.

The study, titled “Prepubescent female rodents have enhanced hippocampal LTP and learning relative to males, reversing in adulthood as inhibition increases” was recently published in Nature Neuroscience.

Since the late 19th century, the general consensus in the scientific community has been that men outperform women on spatial tasks, while women excel in learning tasks involving verbal material, while the general debate has been about why there is a difference.

The surprising conclusion from our results is that the polarization of sex differences in hippocampal synapses and related learning reverses in females and males from before to after puberty. This occurs because of distinct developmental changes. Thresholds for plasticity and encoding spatial information increase in females and decease in males.”

Christine Gall, PhD, co-corresponding author, and distinguished professor and chair of anatomy and neurobiology at the UCI School of Medicine

Puberty is a critical landmark in brain maturation and results in a wide variety of sex differences in behavior, but little is known about how it affects the substrates for memory encoding. Researchers identified a female-specific mechanism that increases the LTP threshold and decreases spatial memory from before to after puberty. Sex differences were demonstrated for hippocampus-dependent processes and driven by different underlying mechanisms.

In females only, inhibitory synapses in the CA1 field of the hippocampus exhibit an increase in levels of GABAA receptors containing the α5 subunit; this increase is associated with greater inhibition of synaptic activity critical for synaptic plasticity and memory. The α5 receptors have been linked to anxiety which also undergoes changes at the onset of the estrous cycle. Researchers found that pharmacological suppression of α5-GABAA receptors restored LTP and memory encoding in females to levels observed before puberty.

“Our team proposes that the emergent female pattern may favor learning in complex circumstances while the emergent male pattern favors rapid acquisition of simpler material. This idea suggests that optimal teaching strategies need to reflect previously unsuspected brain differences between the sexes and how these are dramatically adjusted during puberty,” Gall said. “The vast majority of studies have begun with analyses of young adult male rodents. Females use somewhat different memory mechanisms than do males and therefore may respond differently to drugs and gene mutations. This new research demonstrates the need for new sexually differentiated approaches for the development of therapeutic treatments and their applications at different life stages.”

Further research will be conducted to determine if the sex-specific LTP threshold changes identified in hippocampus during the transition to postpubertal life are evident in other brain areas and influence the encoding of different types of memories.


Journal reference:

Le, A.A., et al. (2022) Prepubescent female rodents have enhanced hippocampal LTP and learning relative to males, reversing in adulthood as inhibition increases. Nature Neuroscience.