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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

Major Inuit health survey drops anchor in Nunavut

The largest Inuit health survey ever conducted in Canada has begun in southern Hudson Bay, with doctors and other medical staff travelling across Nunavut aboard an Arctic icebreaker to test and interview Inuit about their well-being. The Nunavut Inuit Health Survey, also known as "Qanuippitali?" which translates to "How about us? How are we?" is led by McGill's Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, headed by Prof. Grace Egeland. The $8-million project is part of International Polar Year research, with researchers from universities in Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba.

Published: 8 Aug 2007

This Cousteau comes with batteries

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."

Published: 4 Aug 2007

Making and breaking memories

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.

Published: 26 Jul 2007

Nobel mentoring

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.

Published: 4 Jul 2007

Scientists find drug to banish bad memories

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.

Published: 3 Jul 2007

First baby born from egg matured in lab and frozen

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.

Published: 3 Jul 2007

Surge in self-injury cases

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.

Published: 26 Jun 2007

Immigration, not Blair, changed face of Britain

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.

Published: 26 Jun 2007

Design, build, forget: A flawed formula

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.

Published: 16 Jun 2007

River blindness showing drug resistance

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.

Published: 14 Jun 2007

Wendy Thomson on Tony Blair's social legacy

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.

Published: 12 Jun 2007

It's all in your head

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.

Published: 6 Jun 2007

It was 40 years ago today

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."

Published: 1 Jun 2007