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Health study: Antibiotic prescriptions

Doctors who are overworked, have been trained in other countries or who have been practising longer are more likely to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately, according to research out of McGill that highlights a major problem facing public-health officials. The study, published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, assessed the prescribing habits of hundreds of Quebec doctors over an eight-year period, identifying those who prescribe antibiotics in ways that can lead to drug resistance. Genevieve Cadieux, the study's co-author and a researcher at McGill's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said, "The most daunting concern is that we're not going to have effective drugs to treat illnesses." Robyn Tamblyn, who co-authored the report, said more research is needed to determine why doctors in these broad categories seem to be more likely to prescribe inappropriately.

Published: 9 Oct 2007

What provided that spark of life?

On Thursday, McGill will host the third annual Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium: Origin of Life: What Was the Spark of Life? Four of the world's foremost experts on the chemical and biological origins of human existence will debate a question that man has asked for centuries. In Saturday's Gazette Professor Joe Schwarcz discusses some of these historical beliefs.

Published: 29 Sep 2007

McGill's Middle East Program gets royal nod

Queen Rania of Jordan recently conducted a tour of schools in Amman, Jordan, which included a visit to the Community Development Centre (CDC), a social agency affiliated with the University of Jordan (UJ) and primarily funded by CIDA. The centre is currently running 12 community development programs, which directly affect between 15,000-20,000 underprivileged residents of the area annually. Five of the centre's core professional staff, including the director, are graduates of McGill with master's degrees in social work through the McGill Middle East Program (MMEP). "The fellowship program is a clear example of how professional social workers can work with members of the community to improve conditions and advance civil society," MMEP manager David Leduc told the Jordan Times. Canadian ambassador Margaret Huber met with Queen Rania and expressed the Canadian government's wish to see "more social centres like the CDC in Jordan." The Queen suggested stronger collaboration between McGill and UJ, in order to serv

Published: 26 Sep 2007

Invasive crab species identified in Panama Canal

A Smithsonian scientist and his colleague from McGill report that a potentially harmful invasive crab species that has spread to several countries is now established and reproducing in Panama. Mark Torchin, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and Dominique Roche, a McGill pre-doctoral student, report their research in the September issue of Aquatic Invasions.

Published: 20 Sep 2007

Inuit health survey

The impact of diet change is the focus of the Inuit Health Survey, headed by McGill epidemiologist Grace Egeland. On board the Amundsen icebreaker since Aug. 17, Egeland is leading this comprehensive look at the health and welfare of Inuit in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Labrador's Nunatsiavut communities.

Published: 20 Sep 2007

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