Nov. 27, 1995
Vol. 15, No. 6

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    New research building to be constructed on Allee Laboratory site

    Labs will be used for research in biopsychology Construction of a new laboratory building for research in the biological foundations of human behavior is scheduled to begin in late winter. The four-story structure will be built on the current site of the W.C. Allee Laboratory for Animal Research, 940 E. 57th St.

    The new building will provide additional space for work by the Committee on Biopsychology and its chairman, Martha McClintock, Professor in Psychology and one of the nation's leading scholars on the relationship between behavior, physiology and the environment.

    Research conducted in the Committee on Biopsychology -- which includes faculty members from Psychology, Ecology & Evolution, Organismal Biology & Anatomy, Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, Medicine and the Committee on Neurobiology -- is of fundamental importance to the study of behavior.

    Scholars in the committee use neural, endocrine, molecular and genetic techniques to learn how behavior and the environment affect gene expression and thus regulate development, learning and memory, fertility and health. Biopsychologists also elucidate the biological foundations of motivation, thought, perception, emotions, communication, parenting and social behavior. In addition to basic behavioral processes, the research provides insight in such clinical areas as anxiety and depression, brain injury, drug addiction and the effects of everyday stressors on risk for infectious disease and infertility.

    The committee builds on a tradition of interdisciplinary research at the University.

    "You could say that the field of biopsychology was born at the University of Chicago, where it has a long and rich history," McClintock said. "Indeed, one of the priorities of William Rainey Harper [the University's first president] was to establish a multidisciplinary faculty group whose goal was the unified study of mind, brain and behavior." Among the pioneering discoveries in biopsychology made at the University are asymmetry of brain function, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the functional localization of memory, learning and aggression.

    McClintock's own research program has produced important discoveries about the behavior of rats by studying the animals in real time over the life span in unstressed environments that are as close to nature as possible. McClintock and her colleagues have found that rats regulate the timing and sex distribution of their litters based on conditions in their environments. They communicate with each other by means of pheromones, chemical substances produced by the animals and picked up by the specialized olfactory systems of other members of their species. McClintock, a University faculty member since 1978, received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in 1994.

    Construction of the new laboratory building is expected to be completed by 1997, according to Richard Saller, Dean of the Social Sciences Division. The $11.5 million project will be supported by fundraising, divisional resources, University resources and grants from the National Science Foundation and the state of Illinois. A campaign also is under way to help raise funds for the research. The new laboratory building will include state-of-the-art animal research facilities and space for faculty and student research.