In the Headlines news
A team from McGill, York and Dalhousie universities is hard at work refining AQUA, the world's first amphibious robot. AQUA is a mechanized marine biologist capable of walking on land and swimming underwater -- and it doesn't run out of air, disturb organisms during surveys or suffer decompression sickness at depths below 30 metres. "Like many robots before, AQUA is bio-inspired," says McGill's Chris Prahacs, one of the robot's original designers. "Visually and in the way it moves, AQUA could best be described as a turtle -- though it has six flippers instead of four."
In 2000, Dr. Karim Nader of McGill's Department of Psychology turned the study of memory on its head when he proved that it is possible to dull excessively painful memories with certain drugs. In an Q&A interview, Dr. Nader is asked to share his insights into memory making and breaking.
Ava-Ann Allman, 25, a doctoral student in psychology at McGill, is one of three young Canadians nominated by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to attend the annual Lindau Meetings in Germany where, this week, 18 Nobel Prize winners are sharing their wisdom with up and coming scientists and economists from around the world.
In a new study, revealed in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, psychiatrists at McGill and Harvard used an amnesia drug, propanolol, to "dampen" the memories of trauma victims. Prof. Karim Nader of McGill said, "When you remember old memories they can become 'unstored' and then have to be 'restored.' As the memory is getting restored, we gave patients a drug that turns down the emotional part of the memory. It left the conscious part of the memory intact, so they could still remember all the details but without being overwhelmed by the memory." The research suggests memories can be manipulated because they act as if made from glass, existing in a molten state as they are being created, before turning solid. When the memory is recalled, however, it becomes molten again and so can be altered before it once more resets.
The first test-tube baby created from an egg, matured in the laboratory and then frozen has been born in Canada, in a breakthrough offering hope to women with cancer and others unsuited to normal IVF treatment. "We have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to do this and, so far, we have achieved four successful pregnancies, one of which has resulted in a live birth," Hananel Holzer of the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal said in a statement. The research was presented to the 23rd annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology on Monday.
International experts who gathered at McGill this week report an extraordinary surge in cases of non-suicidal self-injury by teenagers, apparently seeking release from the emotional distress of a detached world that is moving too fast and demanding too much. "Some people refer to it as the new anorexia," Nancy Heath, a professor in McGill's department of educational psychology, told the Gazette.
The end of this month marks two important changes in British life: July 1 marks the official start of a smoke-free Britain in all public places, while tomorrow will mark the official end of Tony Blair's tenure as prime minister. McGill political scientist Antonia Maioni writes in the Toronto Star that, in both cases, we are witnessing the end of an era. These changes are minor, however, compared with the problems of immigration and cultural integration that Britain faces, which question the very core of what it means to be British.
The Gazette asks McGill professor Saeed Mirza, a civil engineer with expertise in concrete structures, to assess what he considers are some of the more dangerous road structures in Montreal.
The parasite that causes river blindness, a crippling disease endemic in Africa and tropical regions of the Americas, is now showing signs of resistance to the one drug used to treat it, according to McGill research published today in the Lancet. The discovery could force public health officials to rethink strategies for controlling river blindness. "We need new treatments and this makes it more urgent, we also need more monitoring of any resistance," said Dr. Roger Prichard, the study's lead author and a professor at McGill's Institute of Parasitology.
As Tony Blair leaves office this month after a decade in Downing Street, he leaves a legacy of controversy in foreign policy, but leaves a Britain transformed in economic and social policy. In Policy Options magazine, Wendy Thomson, now director of the McGill School of Social Work, gives a first-hand account as someone who was there as head of the Office of Public Service Reform in 10 Downing Street. Thomson argues that, far from reverting to the "British disease," Blair's New Labour leaves a domestic legacy of success.
McGill ophthalmology professor Frederick Kingdom and students Ali Yoonessi and Elena Gheorghiu recently won Best Visual Illusion at the Vision Sciences Society conference for demonstrating the principles of visual illusions with two identical photos of the leaning tower of Pisa that the mind sees as different because they're side by side.
McGill neuroscientist Dan Levitin writes, in a Washington Post op-ed piece on the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' eighth album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": "A hundred years from now, musicologists say, Beatles songs will be so well known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people won't know who wrote them. They will have become sufficiently entrenched in popular culture that it will seem as if they've always existed, like 'Oh! Susanna,' 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'Frère Jacques'... Figuring out why some songs and not others stick in our heads, and why we can enjoy certain songs across a lifetime, is the work not just of composers but also of psychologists and neuroscientists."
Amir Raz, a professor of clinical neuroscience in the psychiatry department at McGill, is one of a handful of researchers raising concerns over the continued use of antidepressants in children and teens. "The human brain is developing exponentially when we are very young," he says. "And exposure to antidepressants may affect or influence the wiring of the brain, especially when it comes to certain elements that have to do with stress, emotion and the regulation of these."
McGill neuroscientist Karim Nader is one of Forbes magazine's "Revolutionaries: Ten People Who Could Change The World." Nader's research is on reducing the severe pain of traumatic memories.
A virus is causing mass die-offs of fish in the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater fishery. The virus is one of nearly 200 alien species that have invaded the region. Anthony Ricciardi, professor of environmental science at McGill, co-writes in an op-ed in the Globe & Mail that a national strategy is needed to address the issue of alien species. "We need to develop biosecurity programs to identify and eliminate the vectors that deliver alien species to our country. We must also increase our capacity to detect new threats early and determine appropriate emergency responses."