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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

Talking Heads

Seed Magazine carries the transcript and video of an extensive conversation between Daniel Levitin, James McGill Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience and Music and author of the New York Times bestseller "This Is Your Brain on Music," and singer, songwriter and artist David Byrne at STK in New York's meatpacking district, in which the two talk about everything from the soundtrack of Psycho to empathy and mirror neurons.

Published: 30 Apr 2007

Language acquisition

According to Fred Genesee, a professor of psycholinguistics at McGill, a child simply needs to be exposed to a different language for at least 30 percent of his or her waking time to acquire it. This means that up to three languages can be learned simultaneously, although the learning process will be more complex, in particular for the adults doing the teaching.

Published: 26 Apr 2007

The beat goes on -- in the brain

McGill's Daniel Levitin continues to garner media attention with an article appearing in last month's Rolling Stone magazine, the London Daily Telegraph's Sunday Magazine and, more recently, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The producer-turned-neuroscientist Levitin is trying to understand why and how music moves us.

Published: 19 Apr 2007

Master origamist at McGill

Robert Lang, one of the world's top origami masters, comes to McGill next week, where he'll construct the model of a giant pteranodon. Lang's pteranodon should be ready for permanent installation alongside the dinosaur in the main gallery of the Redpath Museum by the end of the week. To benefit the museum, McGill hopes to sell a limited number of Lang's mini-pteranodons in a silent auction.

Published: 16 Apr 2007

Chicken à la King?

A 68-million-year-old T-Rex thigh bone find ties the King of Dinosaurs to modern-day species, with its soft tissue most closely matching that of chickens. "I'd call it a milestone," says paleontologist Hans Larsson of McGill. "Dinosaurs will enter the field of molecular biology and really slingshot paleontology into the modern world."

Published: 13 Apr 2007

Genetic mutation boosts memory

Canadian researchers have discovered a gene mutation that actually improves long-term memory and could eventually lead to a memory-enhancing pill. Working with mice, lead researcher Mauro Costa-Mattioli, a postgraduate fellow at McGill, and colleagues found that rodents that had a defective version of a gene that produces a memory-blocking protein could learn and remember tasks faster than normal mice.

Published: 5 Apr 2007

Researchers identify gene for spina bifida

Researchers at McGill have identified a gene that causes the developmental disorder spina bifida, the second most prevalent birth defect after cardiac abnormalities. The discovery is expected to aid in the diagnosis of the condition, which in its most severe form can lead to crippling disabilities. "We've known for years that there's a genetic component, and now we've discovered one of the culprits," said Philippe Gros, the biochemistry professor who led the team in co-operation with researchers at the Instituto Giannina Gaslini in Genoa, Italy.

Published: 5 Apr 2007

Adapting to climate change

"Canada is finally recognizing that despite even the most aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, some climate change will continue to occur and we need to plan to adapt." James Ford, post-doctoral fellow in the geography department at McGill, is co-author in this letter to the Toronto Star on how Canada must prepare now for extreme temperatures in summer, increased storm activity, flooding and ice storms.

Published: 4 Apr 2007

Superconductors inspire quantum test for dark energy

Below a certain frequency threshold, the quantum fluctuations of empty space may contribute to dark energy -- much the way some materials become superconductors below a critical temperature. In 2004, Michael Mackey, of McGill's Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology and Medicine (Associate member in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics and the Department of Physics), and Christian Beck of Queen Mary, University of London, claimed that the quantum fluctuations of empty space could be the source of dark energy and suggested a test for this idea. They didn't know then why it might work, but now the pair has come up with the theory behind the experiment.

Published: 3 Apr 2007

Creationism debate continues to evolve

The battle over creationism in the classroom is not unique to small-town America, prominent Canadian biologists warn. It's creeping into this country's public school science classes and it's up to parents to do something about it. Brian Alters, director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill, is interviewed in the Toronto Star.

Published: 2 Apr 2007