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Neuroscience major Christina Croft ’03 (Highland Park, N.J.) is conducting an independent study to determine whether gender determines cognitive ability. Croft is working with Ann McGillicuddy-DeLisi, Metzgar Professor of Psychology and head of the department, to investigate how male and female hormones affect spatial ability.

“I’ve been reading articles that discuss animal studies, where levels of estrogen and testosterone in the animals have been manipulated. Researchers observe the animals’ ability to complete various spatial tasks based on their hormone levels,” says Croft, who is minoring in health care and society.

Croft is also participating in an experiment conducted by McGillicuddy-DeLisi’s Advanced Developmental Psychology class. “The experiment entails giving testosterone or estrodial to either castrated male or female rats,” she says. “There are only five rats in total: one female control, one male control, with two males each receiving different dosages of estrodial, and then one male receiving a dosage of testosterone. The rats then attempt to navigate a Morris Water maze, which is a test of spatial ability.”

“This experiment aims to determine the hormonal influences on different kinds of cognition,” explains McGillicuddy-DeLisi.

Croft is also looking at literature on human studies, most of which details atypical populations such as subjects with preexisting hormone disorders or transsexuals.

Says Croft, “This project allows me to do a more in-depth investigation of the specific effects of hormones on spatial ability as well as learn what type of research has been done in this area. The type of research that I am reading about is something that I would be interested in conducting myself in the future.”

McGillicuddy-DeLisi adds, “Christina is a very engaged student who is researching a topic that has really caught her interest.”

For her part, Croft is happy to have the opportunity to work closely with her mentor.

“Professor McGillicuddy-DeLisi is great to work with,” she says. “She has a great passion for this independent study, and it reflects in the enthusiasm she exhibits in our meetings. I also enjoy doing this independent study with her because she is a very caring person and is always interested in how things are going for me.”

She adds, “Lafayette provides a good learning environment for independent studies like mine. With small class sizes, it allows the students to get to know their professors more closely. The professors also are very encouraging about coming to talk to them with any problems.”

A graduate of Highland Park High School, Croft is a member of the psychology and neuroscience clubs. She is vice president of program development and the Panhellenic delegate for her sorority, Alpha Phi. She is treasurer of the women’s club rugby team and participates in intramural sports.

Croft has served as vice president of the Keefe Hall volunteering special interest living group, in which residents share an interest in community service. Her other past activities include serving as a peer tutor and child care aide.

Categorized in: Academic News