Cognitive Science

Behavioral Neuroscience Lab

In addition to providing lab space to supplement courses in learning and neuroscience, the Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory provides an environment where student and faculty researchers study the effect of phytoestrogens on the behavior of developing rats. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived estrogens present in a variety of plant products. Isoflavones are the most common phytoestrogens as they can be found in alfalfa and red clover as well as in soy beans and plants used in fermenting beverages such as beer, red wine and bourbon.

Specific isoflavones; genistein and diadzein, are very similar in structure to human steroidal estrogen. These isoflavones have protective effects against specific types of breast and colon cancer in women who are postmenopausal. Because estrogens can affect various aspects of sex-specific development, wide-spread availability of phytoestrogens in food and as supplements aimed at women, phytoestrogens consumed by the mother during pregnancy and lactation could alter development of a fetal or newborn mammal. The current lab research studies the behavior of the newborn and pre/post adolescent rat to examine effects of phytoestrogens during early periods of sex-specific development.