Center for Neuroendocrine Studies at UMass Amherst Wins Faculty Senate Approval

AMHERST, Mass. - The Faculty Senate at the University of Massachusetts has approved the establishment of a Center for Neuroendocrine Studies (CNS). If approved further by the University’s administration, the center would be the first of its kind in the commonwealth. Neuroendocrinologists are interested in how the body chemicals called hormones act in the brain, and how the brain influences hormones.

"Neuroscience in general is a very hot area right now, and neuroendocrinology is one of the new frontiers in science," said Jeffrey Blaustein, one of 13 faculty members in psychology, biology, and veterinary and animal sciences, who are working to establish the new center. These faculty members have been widely recognized, nationally and internationally, in this field, according to Blaustein.

Health issues related to neuroendocrinology have been making headlines in recent years. These topics include biological clocks in the brain and their relation to mental health; fetal alcohol syndrome; the relationship of nutrition and the environment to fertility; the way pollutants in the environment can disrupt body systems governed by hormones; and evidence that the female hormone estrogen can be protective against decreased brain function, including memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

"It’s a marriage of all levels of scientific investigation, from studies at the molecular level to studies which look at the whole organism," said Blaustein, who is a member of the psychology department and conducts his work through the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.

An established center would have the visibility that an informal group does not, Blaustein said; that center’s identity and structure would enhance the University’s ability to attract top-notch faculty members, visiting professors, postdoctoral fellows, and students. Also, he said, the center could help coordinate collaborations between the University and other western Massachusetts colleges, as well as regional hospitals. In addition, the formation of the center would provide a mechanism for the group to attract industrial and federal support, said Blaustein.

The Faculty Senate’s approval of the center is the first step in a process which requires several approvals; the matter will be forwarded to Provost Cora B. Marrett, Chancellor David K. Scott, and University President William M. Bulger, for approval.