The behavioral neuroscience lab at Wheaton College is run by Professor Meg Kirkpatrick and is located in the Science Center 145.
The focus of my research is the interaction between the hormonal, chemical and sensory contributions that regulate complex reproductive behaviors of female rodents. Female rodent sex behavior is an extensively studied and well understood model for examining the actions of hormones in the brain. Given the growing understanding of the relevant hormones, hormone receptors and brain areas involved in these behaviors, researchers have been able to use this system to ask different questions about the role of a changing environment and different neurotransmitters in control of this complex set of behaviors.
My most recent studies have focused on environmental disruptors, especially bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA has been the focus of significant media attention in the past several years due to recalls of baby bottle and Nalgene water bottle products that contained BPA. BPA is known to be estrogenic and can alter neural and reproductive tissues during development. However, little is known about the effect of BPA on adults. My work has begun looking at the effects of BPA on estrogen sensitive reproductive behaviors, tissues and hormone receptors in adult female rats.
Neural Responses to Sensory Stimuli
Another line of recent research has examined the cellular response of forebrain neurons to differing types of mating stimuli in both rats and mice. These studies help to understand the neural pathways by which somatosensory information is transmitted to the brain from peripheral areas.
In my work, we use both behavioral measures and manipulations in live animals as well as biochemical methods to correlate neural changes with behavioral states. This in vivo to in vitro approach to my work is one of the aspects that I find most and one that I enjoy sharing with students. Bringing students into the laboratory is a priority and I encourage students to participate in every aspect of the collaborative research process. I typically have 2-4 students working in the lab, especially during the summer and January.
Please contact Meg Kirkpatrick if you would like to be involved.