York flexes its muscle with new research centre

York University is flexing its muscle. With the recent launch of the Muscle Health Research Centre (MHRC), the University is devoting time and space to understanding what makes us move, reported Metro Toronto Feb. 9. 

“It’s a centre that brings together about 16 different scientists who all study muscle in some way. Mostly skeletal muscle, the muscles that make us move,” says David Hood, director of the centre.  

Besides looking good, muscle is fundamental to our survival.  

“Muscle is 40 per cent of your body, so it’s a large amount of your body mass,” says Hood. “It’s involved in metabolism and locomotion and it adapts. So many of us focus on exercise and how exercise promotes adaptations in muscle that make us healthier. It’s not about high-performance athletes. It’s really about the study of muscle and its relation to the health of Canadians.”  

Muscle plays a large role in many health ailments. Diabetes, obesity, aging and even cancer are all related to muscle and its prevalence in the body.  

“A third of cancer patients actually die of muscle wasting. They don’t die of the tumour. They die because that tumour secretes things that affect the condition of muscle, and eventually, they’ll have respiratory failure because the respiratory muscles aren’t working.” 

The MHRC is the only centre in Canada devoted to studying muscle. “There’s plenty of room for lots of research and that’s why a centre like this is important,” says Hood. “We all have different interests in muscle and come from different sides of the coin, but we all study muscle and its implications for health.”  

The centre has been in the works for a number of years but officially opened last month, said Metro. Because York doesn’t have a medical school, the centre is more research-oriented. However, Hood is looking to grow.  

“My goal is to help this develop from the human side,” he said. “We’ve been studying animal models of muscle disease and dysfunction, and models of exercise for many years, but now we’re going to try to move to the human side of things.” 

Part of the MHRC’s objective is to increase the visibility of biomedical science at York, and Toronto in general. “We have a new Faculty of Health here at York. The idea is to attract scientists and students from all over the place. To bring people together and increase the visibility of muscle health research in Canada and around the world.” 

Research suggests babies don’t take well to taunting

Six-month-old babies might not be able to express themselves with words, but a new study has found they know when you’re teasing them – and they don’t appreciate it, reported the Calgary Sun Feb. 9. 

Researchers at York University examined six- and nine-month-old babies’ reactions to a game in which an experimenter was either unable or unwilling to share a toy. They found the babies could tell and "calmly accepted" when an experimenter was unable to share the toy for reasons beyond his or her control.  

However, the babies averted their gazes and became agitated when the experimenter wouldn’t share. "Babies can tell if you’re teasing or being manipulative, and they let you know it," said lead author Heidi Marsh (MA ’07), a doctoral student in psychology. "These results are exciting, as it’s the first demonstration that used infants’ social behaviour to successfully show that at six months, they comprehend the goals of our actions."  

The study also found six-month-olds have a different way of expressing this awareness than nine-month-olds. The latter often banged their arms when the experimenter was intentionally withholding the toy, whereas the six-month-olds were more likely to frown. The experimenters also used facial expressions to help convey whether they were unwilling or unable to share the toy.  

Forty infants – 20 boys and 20 girls – and their mothers participated in the study, called "Six- and Nine-Month-Old Infants Discriminate Between Goals Despite Similar Action Patterns". 

Matt Galloway brings diversity to CBC show

Andy Barrie attracted a huge following in his 15 years as host of CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” and his replacement, Matt Galloway (BA Hons. ’94), hopes to keep those listeners – while bringing in a young and diverse set, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 9.

"I think that’s what everyone’s trying to do at CBC Radio," Galloway said in an interview Monday, shortly after the CBC announced he’ll take over from the immensely popular Barrie on March 1.  

"You want to grow your audience and keep your audience, whether that’s a youthful audience or a diverse audience (or) perhaps people who have not listened to CBC Radio in the past because they didn’t think it reflected their communities."  

Barrie announced his retirement plans last week.  

Galloway, the Friday “Metro Morning” host and, since 2004, host of CBC’s afternoon radio program “Here & Now”, says that while “Metro Morning” has been successful with Barrie at the helm, "by default, if you have someone else in the house chair there’s going to be a different energy or a different feel to the show."  

Barrie’s "set of reference points are different from my set of reference points. That’s natural because we’re different people," he added. Part of that is Galloway’s background. His father is a black man from the United States and his mother a white woman from Ontario. (The couple lives in Kimberley, Ont., south of Georgian Bay, where Galloway grew up.)  

Galloway also credits his west-end Christie Pits neighbourhood with having a "crazy, mixed-up, super-diverse" quality. "From Ethiopian to Mexican to Greek, Korean and Japanese; you look at the restaurants that are there and that sort of says everything you need to know about this city. And I love that part."  

He plans to bring those influences to “Metro Morning” when he takes over, along with his other interests, which include music, a passion he indulged when he wrote for Toronto’s NOW Magazine and worked at CHRY, York University’s student radio station.  

Feeling thrilled, ecstatic but a "teensy bit nervous" about his new gig, Galloway says he has huge shoes to fill. "This is enormously exciting. The responsibility of talking to somebody in the morning, being the first voice you hear, that’s a big thing. People often have a good day or a bad one depending on how they’re woken up."  

  • Bleary-eyed CBC listeners will be waking up with Matt Galloway more often come March 1, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 9. Monday was Galloway’s last day broadcasting on air from Toronto before flying to Vancouver for CBC’s Olympics coverage. Galloway, 39, caught the broadcasting bug at York University’s campus radio station CHRY. 

BBC dance producer Margaret Dale taught at York

Margaret Dale, an illustrious dancer who went on to become an important producer and director of dance for British television, died in London on Jan. 28. She was 87, reported The New York Times Feb. 9.  

In the 1940s and 1950s, dancing with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet), Dale showed a flair for comedy and a sparkling technique. As a director and producer for BBC-TV between 1954 and 1976, she set standards that have rarely been equalled, commissioning work from talented young choreographers, assembling casts that never appeared together onstage and capturing classic stage productions in lucid, unfussy recordings.  

After retiring from the BBC, Dale moved to Canada, where she was chair of York University’s Dance Department in 1976-1977.

  • In a Feb. 9 obituary, Britain’s The Daily Telegraph called Margaret Dale Britain’s most distinguished producer of ballet for television and said she chaired York’s Dance Department. 

Informed decision-making

Management science has many facets but one of its key applications is optimization, explained Wade Cook, associate dean of research at York’s Schulich School of Business, in the first of a four-part series on management science in the National Post Feb. 9.   

"This idea of optimization has been around since the 1940s. Most of it arose out of large-scale logistics problems the military had to solve during and after the Second World War and they needed analytical tools to do that."  

These tools, combined with computers that could record, process and calculate vast mathematical problems, were soon adopted by such pioneers as American Airlines, which applied them to optimize its revenues. "So they have mathematical tools for forecasting how many people will want to fly at a reduced date, versus those who will book at the last minute and won’t be able to take advantage of that rate," said Cook.  

"And then they have an optimization model that figures out that the maximum revenue based on the number of seats they can sell at each rate. These are very sophisticated mathematical models that are updated by the moment and use the most recent data and forecasts." 

On air

  • Harvey Schwartz, a retired economics professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, discussed Toronto city council’s 2010 operating budget challenges, on CBC Radio One’s “Here & Now” Feb. 8.
  • York University student Sheryl Ng‘s YouTube video on bagged milk in Canada has gone viral, reported Global TV Feb. 8.