Volume 77
Number 2

Making a Splash

Invincible Ink

Where the Heart Is

Commencement 2001

Emory University

Association of Emory Alumni

Current News and Events

Emory Report



Sports Updates
























Ever wonder why people go to the trouble of setting up surprise parties, or covering gifts in elaborate wrapping paper and bows? Clinical evidence now shows that not knowing what to expect may be the best gift of all.

Our brains are biologically primed to crave surprises, according to research by scientists at Emory’s Functional Neuro-imaging Group and Baylor College of Medicine.

The scientists, led by Gregory S. Berns, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory, measured changes in human brain activity in response to a sequence of pleasurable stimuli—in this case, tastes of fruit juice and water. In the study, a computer-controlled device squirted fruit juice and water into the mouths of research participants in either predictable or unpredictable patterns. Brain activity was measured by magnetic resonance imaging, with MRI scans showing stronger activity in pleasure regions of the brain when the pattern was unpredictable.

“The brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones, and it may have little to do with what people say they like,” Berns says.

Unfortunately, there can be a downside to craving surprises, such as risk-taking behaviors. The research findings, which were reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, may provide a better understanding of disorders of decision-making and help clarify the pathways involved in addiction to drugs or gambling.



















































LAW PROFESSOR FRANK S. ALEXANDER is teaching the last property class of the year to his first-year law students. He punctuates his lecture on public land use and eminent domain with rapid-fire questions.

“Miss Hughes, describe the precedents . . . ”

“And the U.S. Supreme Court does what?”

“Explain the reasoning of the court—Justice Scalia’s opinion.”

When a salient point is made, the quick typing into laptop computers sounds like rain splattering a tin roof.

As the class draws to a close, Alexander concludes: “I do not apologize to you for so much work—you’re paying a high hourly rate to be here. I don’t apologize for pushing you—only by being pushed do you become the kind of person you may be down the road. . . . I hope I have sharpened your mind, but not narrowed it. Unfortunately, however, you will never again drive down the road and see a beautiful forest without saying, ‘Hmmm, I wonder about the easements.’ ”

The class laughs appreciatively.

“I hope you will come to understand,” Alexander adds, “that these are tools of service, not simply tools of acquisition.”

Such commitment to both teaching and public service led the Student Government Association and the Office of Residence Life to present Alexander with the Laura Jones Hardman Award for Contributions to the Community at the Crystal Apple Award ceremony in April.

After class, students gather to eat lunch at the tables scattered throughout Gambrell Hall’s ground floor, comparing notes for the final.

“Professor Alexander is a mentor for many of us,” says Neal S. Cohen, who is working as Alexander’s research assistant this summer at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society investigating predatory mortgage lending. “He demands a lot of us, but students rise to the challenge. And he supports law students who want to go into serving the public interest.”

For Alexander, who earned a law degree and a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University concurrently, this blend of vocation and community activism comes naturally. “Depending on your perspective of church ministry and your perspective of law, to me they were very much subtle variations on the same theme,” he says, “which is that they’re both forms of public service.”

A member of the Emory faculty since 1982, Alexander came to the University to help found its Law and Religion Program, where he still serves as co-director. He has won a string of teaching awards since, including the Ben F. Johnson Award, the Emory Williams Award, the Black Law Student Association Award, and the Student Bar Association Award.

For more than a decade, Alexander’s community work has focused on affordable housing and urban redevelopment, and he has served as a commissioner of the State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless. Graduate students who take Alexander’s seminar on federal housing policies and homelessness can work with him in a clinical program with hands-on experience, whether monitoring state legislation or helping residents of a public housing development in Atlanta.

“There are incredible opportunities for this university . . . to go back into the community and be a full member,” Alexander says, “not simply an isolated institution in a relatively wealthy neighborhood.”

Jean Toole, executive director of Community Friendship, Inc., says Alexander has been an invaluable ally for their non-profit psychiatric rehabilitation program in Atlanta for almost twenty years.

“I have a social work background, and I get into situations where I need a legal perspective,” Toole says. “So I’ll call Frank with pen and paper in hand. He always has lots of food for thought, options, and opinions. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and also one of the kindest.”

Also honored at the Crystal Apple Award dinner were Carrie Rosefsky Wickham of the Department of Political Science, who received the William H. Fox Award for Emerging Excellence in Teaching and Service. Wickham, whose husband and four-year-old daughter clapped proudly as she accepted the award, thanked them “for excusing the frozen dinners and piles of laundry” that accompany her intense work schedule.

Undergraduate teaching award recipients were James W. Flannery, founder of Theater Emory, who received the creative and performing arts award; Amanda Starnes, of the Department of Biology, who received the lecture award; and Irwin T. Hyatt Jr., of the Department of History, who received the seminar award.

Graduate teaching awards went to Annabel Martin of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and Dalia Judovitz of the Department of French and Italian. Professional teaching awards went to Cyril Spann of the School of Medicine, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and Marian Dolan, choral conductor and assistant professor in the Candler School of Theology.—M.J.L.

Let the light shine

Nearsightedness, in which a person has trouble seeing distant objects, is the most common vision disorder, affecting about one in four Americans. A few years ago, a highly publicized study found that infants who sleep with nightlights or overhead lights on were five times more likely to develop myopia than those who sleep in the dark.

A recent Emory study refutes these findings. In the study by researchers Dolores V. Bradley, Alcides Fernandes, and Ronald G. Boothe of Yerkes Primate Research Center, as well as colleagues at the University of Houston, infant rhesus monkeys were reared in around-the-clock light for six months. Compared to infant monkeys reared with balanced periods of light and dark, researchers found no differences that would indicate nearsightedness.

“What is well established is that myopic parents tend to have myopic children,”Bradley says. “There's a high correlation between nearsighted parents and those who turn on nightlights. Myopic parents prefer to have nightlights on and are more likely to have nearsighted kids.”

But nearsightedness is not completely genetic. Environment almost certainly plays a role, and there is a correlation between the time a person spends performing close-up tasks and the incidence of myopia.





© 2001 Emory University