Data Points

By Zachary Block '99 / January / February 2004
June 8th, 2007


Snails may be slow, but they’re industrious, Brown doctoral candidate Brian Silliman has discovered. He has observed periwinkles cultivating their favorite food by depositing spore-laden feces in cuts the snails sawed in blades of live marsh grass. “The snail is conducting a low-level form of food production,” says Silliman, who was the lead author of a paper in the December Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. The periwinkle is the first non-insect discovered to engage in fungus farming.


Scientists have long sought a link between the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s disease. Now a group of Brown scientists suspects the connection may lie in the interaction between the virus and a protein that breaks down to form a major component of the plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. “At this point, of course, we don’t know yet whether herpes plays a causal role in Alzheimer’s disease,” says Joseph A. DeGiorgis ’02 Ph.D., who worked on the study with graduate student Prasanna Satpute-Krishnan. “But our research does provide some interesting new insight into both diseases.” The finding, which was reported in the December issue of Aging Cell, could lead to possible uses of the herpes virus in Alzheimer’s therapy, says Associate Professor of Medical Science Elaine Bearer.


Latchkey middle schoolers are more likely to take drugs, steal, and skip class than children with adult supervision after school. That’s the finding in a new study in the Journal of Public Economics by Assistant Professor of Economics Anna Aizer. It sounds obvious, but Aizer says previous research has focused on younger children and has examined cognitive development and educational achievement, while hers focused on children between the ages of ten and fourteen and looked at behavioral problems. “Expanding after-school or child-care programs typically geared to preschool-age children to accommodate more school-age children may have important consequences for their human capital development and labor market outcomes later in life,” Aizer writes.

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January / February 2004