Rudy Professor of Biology
Sue Carter is a pioneering leader in the field of behavioral neuroendocrinology. She is the director of the Kinsey Institute at IU Bloomington. Carter studies social bonding, male and female parental behavior, the social control of stress reactivity and the social control of reproduction, often using animal models such as the socially monogamous prairie vole. Carter’s research focuses on neuropeptide and steroid hormones, including oxytocin, vasopressin, corticotropin-releasing hormone, and estrogen. Her research program has discovered important new developmental functions for oxytocin and vasopressin, and implicated these hormones in the regulation of long-lasting neural and effects of early social experiences. She also has a long-standing concern regarding the consequences of medical manipulations for human development and parent-child interactions, including the use of “pitocin” to induce labor and consequences of breast feeding for the mother and child.
Most recently she has been examining the role of oxytocin and vasopressin in mental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Recent findings, many of which are built upon scientific research models originated by Carter, have revealed that the same basic neurobiological processes and systems that support healthy sexual responses are necessary for love and well-being. At the biological heart of the experience of love, as well as sexual behavior, is a small hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin, and the neural systems that oxytocin regulates, in turn protect and heal. Carter is also known for research on the physiological basis of social behavior, including studies that implicated oxytocin, vasopressin and hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (“stress”) axis in the traits of monogamy including pair-bond formation. She pioneered the physiological study of socially monogamous mammals, including the prairie vole.
Carter came to IU from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was professor of psychiatry. She was previously co-director of the Brain-Body Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and prior to that Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. Her prior appointments have been in the departments of psychology, zoology and biology, and she helped found the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in neural and behavioral biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Carter is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, and she was awarded the Matthew J. Wayner-NNOXe Pharmaceutical Award for Translational Research.
Carter received her Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas.