Emory Report
October 19, 2009
Volume 62, Number 7


Emory Report homepage  

October 19, 2009

Neurotransmission, the love producer
Can love potions move from fairy tale to fact? Studies are showing the potential to chemically manipulate affection and social bonding.

“A single molecule can have a profound effect on relationships,” said Emory neuroscientist Larry Young, during his recent “Life of the Mind” talk. His research involves prairie voles, highly social animals that tend to form lifelong bonds with their mates.

“Much more of [human] behavior is probably determined by cortical structures that are sort of integrating what is the social structure, what is expected of me,” Young said.

Still, biology plays an undeniable role in our ability to love and form social bonds, he said. “A lot of people say, ‘Doesn’t that take away a lot of the magic?’ But, to me, it’s even more beautiful to think that love is being produced through neurotransmission.” —Carol Clark

Training bacteria to do our bidding
“If you want to control gene expression in your favorite organism, you can do that,” said chemistry’s Justin Gallivan, during a symposium for the physics department.

Gallivan explained his recent work to reprogram an innocuous strain of E. coli to “seek and destroy” an environmental pollutant — runoff from the pesticide atrazine. By hacking into the E. coli genome and inserting a synthetic riboswitch, Gallivan’s team reprogrammed the E. coli cell’s chemical navigation system.

“The doors are really opening in synthetic biology,” Gallivan said. —Carol Clark

Activist: Wrong way in Afghanistan
Discussing “U.S. Foreign Policy in Iraq and Afghanistan: Women’s and Ethical Issues,” peace activist Ann Wright noted, “These wars are really having a disastrous effect on our country…I believe that we do not need to be increasing the number of people in Afghanistan.”

“I would be exploring these other options, like buying off people,” the retired Army colonel said at the event co-sponsored by the Center for Women and the Center for Ethics. “We’ve seen it’s been effective in Iraq and you save some money.”

Wright also discussed her three visits to Gaza following the 2008 Israeli attacks. “And while I in no way condone what Hamas and other militant groups have done in firing those rockets into Israel, the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military on Gaza truly is, in my opinion, horrendous.” —Leslie King