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How big is your prefrontal cortex?

Psychologists from McGill, the University of Toronto, Harvard and the University of Hawaii have developed new computerized measures of "executive intelligence" to predict whether job candidates will excel in managerial roles. The research findings, published in the August issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, demonstrate that those who do exceptionally well at tasks assessing the cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex -- often labelled the "executive" of the brain -- obtain high ratings of managerial competence from supervisors. Robert Pihl was the researcher involved from McGill.

Published: 14 Sep 2007

Better bedside manners

In the first comprehensive study of clinical-skills exams given to doctors, McGill researcher Robyn Tamblyn showed that poor scores in the communication portion of the test are highly predictive of which new doctors are likely to clash with patients in the future. By evaluating communication skills early on, say the study's authors, physicians and academics can better train and select the next generation of medical professionals.

Published: 6 Sep 2007

Experimental antidepressants offer faster relief

A McGill study by Guillaume Lucas (now at U de M) and the late Guy Debonnel finds that, in tests on rats, a new class of antidepressants showed dramatically shorter effectiveness times than traditional SSRIs. Lucas said he hopes the finding will spur research into the family of drugs, raising the prospect of faster-acting antidepressants. The study is published in the Sept. 6 issue of the journal Neuron.

Published: 6 Sep 2007

Climate panel sets example for the biodiversity crisis

With global biodiversity increasingly at risk, a mechanism like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is required to monitor the situation, argues Michel Loreau, Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Ecology at McGill and co-chair of the international steering committee of the International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB).

Published: 5 Sep 2007

Jamming for research

Musicians from Mali, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. will meet for the first time later this week to make music together. Their improvisational performance, part of an annual jazz festival, is also the jumping-off point for a multimillion-dollar research project that seeks to understand what happens when a group of people make off-the-cuff music together. Eric Lewis, a McGill philosophy professor and member of the research team, will look at improvisation and its implications for intellectual property law -- a hot issue with the rising use of sampling in music.

Published: 4 Sep 2007

Dan Levitin: "Most righteous college professor"

The Washington Post caught up with the author of "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession," Daniel Levitin, whose rocking out is now confined to a sax and guitar gig with McGill's "Diminished Faculties."

Published: 3 Sep 2007

Smooth operators, if the groove's right

Need musical accompaniment for the day's dusting? Crank up AC/DC's Back in Black. The advice emerges from a study done by McGill music and psychology professor Daniel Levitin that looks inside the brain to understand not only our emotional responses to music but also explores the physiological reasons for why different types of music suit different activities.

Published: 24 Aug 2007

Music and the brain

Why does a sweet guitar lick give us goose bumps? The CBC interviews musician, sound engineer, record producer and McGill neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. His bestselling book, This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, comes out in paperback on Aug. 28.

Published: 22 Aug 2007

Discovery declassified

There was an astonishing revelation at McGill's recent conference on pulsars. The pulsar was first observed in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and the Nobel Prize in Physics for its discovery went to her supervisor, Professor Antony Hewish. In fact, pulsars had previously been noticed by a U.S. army sergeant. Some 40 years later, Charles Schisler revealed his secret to a Montreal audience of scientists and researchers.

Published: 21 Aug 2007

Arctic ice at all-time low

There is less sea ice in the Arctic than ever before recorded, thanks in part to a warm, sunny summer, and the melting season isn't even over. Bruno Tremblay, assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at McGill, is planning a research cruise to the Russian Arctic in September. He has been observing updated maps of the sea ice extent, which show the quickly melting ice. "I never thought it would go that low that fast," Tremblay said. "There's still a month of melting in front of us, and we're already past the record of 2005."

Published: 21 Aug 2007

In pursuit of pulsars

A conference co-organized by Vicky Kaspi and Andrew Cumming, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the first radio pulsar in the summer of 1967, will be hosted by the pulsar group at McGill, August 12-17, 2007. Important discoveries of the last 40 years will be highlighted, addressing the most interesting and topical areas of neutron star astrophysics today. Some 200 astrophysicists from around the world will be assembled for the conference.

Published: 14 Aug 2007

Experimental MS vaccine proves safe in early trial

An experimental DNA vaccine to fight multiple sclerosis is safe and may also be effective, results of a small McGill trial suggest. The vaccine, called BHT-3009, works by preventing the immune system from attacking the myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. "This was an early trial of a new class of drugs for autoimmune disease in general and for MS in particular," said lead researcher Dr. Amit Bar-Or, of McGill's Montreal Neurological Institute. The findings were published online Monday in Archives of Neurology and are expected to be published in the October print issue of the journal.

Published: 13 Aug 2007

Baseball umps show racial bias

Umpires may be playing favourites on the field, according to a new study co-authored by McGill researchers. Their research shows umpires monitoring Major League Baseball games are more likely to make calls in favour of the pitcher if they share the same race or ethnic background. More than two million pitches over three seasons of MLB games were analyzed during the study by Christopher Parsons, an assistant professor of finance at McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management. His colleagues at the University of Texas and Auburn University co-authored the study.

Published: 13 Aug 2007

Call it 'Black Box Cathedral'

Arthur Kaptainis of the Gazette writes that visually, it's the pits, but aurally, the Multimedia Room at the Schulich School of Music is heaven. "It is the musical recording equivalent of a wind tunnel or particle accelerator," music dean Don McLean says of the facility, or rather its rosy future.

Published: 10 Aug 2007

Going green on campus

Montreal's campuses are going green at an unprecedented pace and scale, and it's clear the drive to change is coming mostly from the students themselves. At McGill, green projects large and small are gaining momentum.

Published: 10 Aug 2007