Blame it on your brain: Salt and hypertension

Research and Discovery

An international research team led by scientists at McGill has found that excessive salt intake “reprograms” the brain, interfering with a natural safety mechanism that normally prevents the body’s arterial blood pressure from rising. While the link between salt and hypertension is well known, scientists until now haven’t understood how high salt intake increased blood pressure.

The secret of empathy

Research and Discovery

The ability to express empathy – the capacity to share and feel another’s emotions – is limited by the stress of being around strangers, according to a new study led by psychology professor Jeffrey Mogil.

Music cuts across cultures

Research and Discovery

Whether you are a Pygmy in the Congolese rainforest or a hipster in downtown Montreal, certain aspects of music will touch you in exactly the same ways. Researchers have found that although the groups felt quite differently about whether specific pieces of music made them feel good or bad, their subjective and physiological responses to how exciting or calming they found the music to be appeared to be universal.

Parasites and the evolution of primate culture

Research and Discovery

Learning from others and innovation have undoubtedly helped advance civilization. But these behaviours can carry costs as well as benefits. And a new study by an international team of evolutionary biologists sheds light on how one particular cost – increased exposure to parasites – may affect cultural evolution in non-human primates.

Obesity may shorten life expectancy up to eight years

Research and Discovery

‘Tis the season to indulge. However, restraint may be best according to a new study led by investigators at McGill and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. Their findings show that overweight and obese individuals have the potential to decrease life expectancy by up to eight years.

Social media data contain pitfalls for understanding human behaviour

Research and Discovery

A growing number of academic researchers are mining social media data to learn about both online and offline human behaviour. In recent years, studies have claimed the ability to predict everything from summer blockbusters to fluctuations in the stock market. But mounting evidence of flaws in many of these studies points to a need for researchers to be wary of serious pitfalls that arise when working with huge social media data sets.

Fragile X study offers hope of new autism treatment

Research and Discovery

People affected by a common inherited form of autism could be helped by a drug that is being tested as a treatment for cancer, according to researchers from McGill and the University of Edinburgh. Fragile X Syndrome is the most common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorders. It affects around 1 in 4,000 boys and 1 in 6,000 girls. Currently, there is no cure.

High incidence of bowel disease seen in people with lung conditions

Research and Discovery

People with airway diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), have a higher incidence of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to the findings of a new study. The research is the first population-based study to examine the association between airway diseases and the incidence of bowel disease.

Oral cancer-causing HPV may spread through oral and genital routes

Research and Discovery

Oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infections were more common among men who had female partners with oral and/or genital HPV infection, suggesting that the transmission of HPV occurs via oral-oral and oral-genital routes, according to a McGill University study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Total recall: Science or science fiction?

Research and Discovery

Is it possible to change the amount of information the brain can store? Maybe, according to a new international study led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). Their research has identified a molecule that puts a brake on brain processing and when removed, brain function and memory recall is improved. Published in the latest issue of Cell Reports, the study has implications for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, such as autism spectral disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.