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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

Kids on meds -- trouble ahead

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."

Published: 31 May 2007

Revolutionaries: Altering human memory

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.

Published: 23 May 2007

Alien species: Controlling global swarming

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."

Published: 16 May 2007

Putting the Knowledge Economy to the test

L'un commercialise les découvertes des chercheurs de l'Université de Montréal. L'autre trouve du financement pour ceux de McGill. Tous deux sont inquiets. Fait-on suffisamment de recherche universitaire au Québec? Cette recherche contribue-t-elle réellement à l'essor économique de la province? Faut-il maintenir une cloison étanche entre les chercheurs et l'entreprise? Marc Leroux, président de la société en commandite Univalor, et Denis Thérien, vice-principal à la recherche et aux relations internationales de l'Université McGill, ont le même sentiment de fierté à l'égard de la recherche au Québec. Ils partagent aussi la même passion pour les exploits et les prouesses des chercheurs de leurs établissements respectifs. Enfin, tous deux s'inquiètent de l'état du réseau universitaire et de son financement. Toutefois, leurs conceptions du rôle de la recherche diffèrent.

Published: 16 May 2007

Bird's eye view: Humans can help birds wing it

David Bird, professor of wildlife biology and director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre at Macdonald campus of McGill, writes on the resilience and adaptive behaviours of some of our birds to changes in their environments.

Published: 16 May 2007

Couple's necessity was the mother of invention

In what is being billed as a world first, a Canadian couple has given birth to a little girl who was conceived through a two-step, test-tube method that could herald the next revolution in baby making. Researchers at the McGill Reproductive Centre say the baby, now a healthy 10-month-old, is the first baby in the world known to be born of an egg that had not only been frozen, but that had never ripened inside of a woman. The process allowed the mother to undergo in vitro fertilization without taking standard fertility drugs.

Published: 12 May 2007