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Judith Stern

 

Title: Professor Emeritus

Area: Behavioral Neuroscience

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I received my Ph.D. in 1970 from Rutgers University in Newark. After several years of post-doctoral research at Stanford University, I joined the faculty of Rutgers-New Brunswick in 1973. My areas of expertise include Behavioral Endocrinology and Developmental Psychobiology. I was long active in the Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience area of the department. My decades-long research on maternal behavior included sensory, experiential, hormonal, and neural aspects; while most of my studies were on rats, I also worked on breast-feeding in women. One of my review papers focused on the role of offspring in inducing maternal behavior, in both animals and humans.

The dynamic, moment-to-moment mother-young interaction that leads to a nursing episode, culminating in milk transfer, was delineated in my laboratory in a long series of studies. This interplay is dependent upon somatosensory reflexes in the mother and her pups. Using this knowledge, we went on to reveal, with visualization of the immediate-early gene, c-fos, the many brain sites active during maternal behavior. In a study at UCSF Medical School, my collaborators and I showed that the representation of the nipple-bearing part of the rat’s ventrum in the somatosensory cortex doubles in size during lactation. This finding is likely indicative of many other brain changes that occur during the parenting experience. Thus, the neural mechanisms underlying maternal behavior vary from reflexive components to cortical plasticity.

My decades-long teaching of sex and gender has led to my current research interests. In Fall 2006 I am launching a new study on emotional, psychological, and physical abuse in dating relationships among Rutgers undergraduates.

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