The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Sandstrom $213,007 for his project, "Estrogen and Cognition Following Ischemia." The National Science Foundation (NSF), through the Support of Mentors and their Students program, granted $10,000 to support "Modulation of Place Learning by Ovarian Hormones."
Previous studies have shown that the temporary blockade of blood flow to the brain causes extensive cellular damage within the hippocampus, a brain region critically involved in normal learning and memory processes. The hormone estradiol, a type of estrogen, has been shown to minimize the brain damage that results from such ischemic insults.
With his NIH project, Sandstrom is exploring this effect in greater detail, particularly seeing if the protective effects of estradiol translate into preservation of learning and memory abilities.
According to Sandstrom, "While protecting the structure of the brain is important, it is even more critical to protect its functioning. One aim of our work is to understand the relationship between estradiol's ability to protect the brain and its ability to protect learning and memory abilities."
In addition to examining the relationship between neuroprotection and preservation of function, Sandstrom's team will examine the biological mechanisms through which estradiol exerts its effects on the brain. To determine where the hormone acts to exert its effects, they will administer it to specific brain regions. They will also examine the relationship between the hormone dosage and its effects over time.
The second study, for the NSF, involves estradiol's effect on learning and memory in rats. Earlier studies have shown that treatment with estradiol can improve learning and memory in rats whose ovaries have been removed. Working with a team of students, Sandstrom is examining the time course over which estradiol modulates learning and memory, as well as the ways in which estradiol interacts with a second hormone, progesterone.
At Williams, Sandstrom teaches introductory courses in psychology and neuroscience, as well as a course in research methods and statistics and a class on hormones and behavior.
In addition to his interest in hormonal modulation of learning and memory, his research has focused on the long-term consequences of early life stress and on the brain mechanisms involved in the processing of stored memories.
He is the co-author of a number of articles in scholarly journals, including "Spatial memory retention is enhanced by acute and continuous estradiol replacement," which was published in Hormones and Behavior in 2004, and "Sex differences in the long-term effects of preweanling isolation stress on memory retention" published in 2005.
He received his B.A. from Knox College in 1994 and his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1999.
Williams College is consistently ranked one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges. The college's 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their undergraduate teaching. The achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in research. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student's financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted. Founded in 1793, it is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college is located in Williamstown, Mass. To visit the college on the Internet: www.williams.edu