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Robert Goy (1924 - 1999)

 
      MADISON - Robert W. Goy, pioneering investigator of the origins of
      behavioral sex differences, educator, and Primate Center director died Jan.
      14, 1999, from cardiovascular and metabolic complications. He would have
      been 75 on Jan. 25.
      
      Goy was a professor of psychology and director of the Wisconsin Regional
      Primate Research Center at UW-Madison from 1971 to 1989. His seminal
      research advanced the notion that exposure to the male sex hormone
      testosterone during fetal development "organized" the developing nervous
      system to express masculine characteristics. This basic principle of
      hormone action has been found to operate in animals from lizards to
      nonhuman primates and is an important aspect of human development. In
      addition, Goy made significant contributions to our understanding of the
      role that early social experience plays in developing the expression of
      masculine and feminine behavior. For more than 35 years, Goy mentored Ph.D.
      students and postdoctoral fellows who have become leaders in the fields of
      primate behavior and neuroendocrinology. As a long time member of the NIH
      psychobiology research panel, Goy was a strong and consistent supporter of
      innovative research in this field. Many of today's established researchers
      benefited from Goy's ability to recognize new and exciting research
      approaches before they became widely accepted.
      
      Goy was born in Detroit and received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees
      in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1947 and University of
      Chicago in 1953, respectively. He then joined the laboratory of W.C. Young
      at the University of Kansas, where some of the most important advances in
      the emerging field of behavioral endocrinology were made over the next 10
      years.
      
      In the early 1950s, W.C. Young's laboratory team, through extensive studies
      of guinea pigs, demonstrated that the presence of specific gonadal hormones
      turned on, or activated, adult patterns of reproductive behavior. Using
      inbred guinea pig strains, Goy, along with Jaqueline Jakway, demonstrated
      that the sensitivity to these activating effects was genetically regulated.
      Scientists are only now beginning to understand the mechanisms producing
      this sensitivity.
      
      In 1959, Goy and Young, with colleagues Charles Phoenix and Arnold Gerall,
      published the first unambiguous evidence that prenatal exposure to elevated
      levels of the male sex hormone testosterone masculinized both the
      reproductive anatomy and behavior of genetically female offspring. This
      landmark study advanced the argument that the fetal hormonal environment
      permanently organizes the developing nervous system to produce either
      masculine or feminine patterns of behavior. This organizational effect of
      hormones became one of the key concepts in behavioral neuroendocrinology
      and revolutionized the way in which hormonal influences on behavior were
      subsequently studied. The concept radically altered views of human sexual
      development when scientists recognized that human genetic anomalies could
      alter the natural prenatal hormonal environment and permanently alter an
      individual's anatomy and behavior.
      
      In 1963, Young's laboratory group moved to the newly established Oregon
      Regional Primate Research Center outside Portland to expand its sexual
      differentiation studies to nonhuman primates. To prepare for this next
      research phase, Goy had been a visiting scientist at the Wisconsin Regional
      Primate Research Center from 1961 to 1963. At the WRPRC, he studied the
      measurement of sex differences in juvenile behavior of rhesus monkeys with
      noted primate psychologist Harry Harlow.
      
      In 1964, Goy, Young and Phoenix began investigating the effects of prenatal
      hormone alterations in rhesus monkeys. They produced the first masculinized
      genetic female rhesus monkey and demonstrated that the principles developed
      in guinea pigs applied to nonhuman primates and, by extension, to humans.
      These landmark studies also showed that differences in male and female
      juvenile rhesus monkeys' social behavior, which occur when the young
      monkeys are not secreting gonadal hormones, were organized by the prenatal
      hormone environment. This was the first clear evidence that prenatal
      hormones actually altered the structure of the nervous system, instead of
      changing its sensitivity to the activating effects of gonadal hormones.
      Subsequent work in other laboratories throughout the world have
      unequivocally provided evidence of specific structural changes within the
      developing nervous system-changes organized by hormones during the period
      of sexual differentiation.
      
      Following W.C. Young's death in 1966, Goy headed the Division of
      Reproductive Physiology and Behavior at the Oregon Regional Primate
      Research Center. Goy, Phoenix, and colleague John Resko continued their
      research into elucidating the role of gonadal hormones in the activation
      and organization of behavioral sex differences.
      
      In 1971, Goy succeeded Harry Harlow as Director of the Wisconsin Regional
      Primate Research Center and continued in this role for 18 years. At
      Wisconsin, Goy initiated studies on how early experience affects the
      development of adult reproductive behavior in rhesus monkeys. He was the
      first to recognize that the standard laboratory rearing paradigm in common
      use for rhesus monkeys produced appropriate juvenile behavior but deficient
      adult sexual behavior, particularly for males. So Goy developed a unique
      laboratory rearing environment using carefully selected groups of mothers
      and infants. The environment preserved important aspects of the social
      environment a rhesus monkey would normally encounter in its natural
      habitat. With colleagues David Goldfoot and Kim Wallen, Goy demonstrated
      the important role that early experience plays in the expression of
      juvenile and adult sex differences in behavior.
      
      This research, in addition to continuing studies of the prenatal hormone
      role in behavioral development, advanced the notion that the prenatal
      hormonal environment produces behavioral predispositions which are then
      shaped and molded by early social context. In Goy's view, both biological
      and social influences were crucial to the development of masculine and
      feminine patterns of behavior.
      
      In 1986, Goy, with colleagues Mary McBrair and Fred Bercovitch, published a
      study demonstrating that very short prenatal exposure to androgen could
      masculinize juvenile patterns of behavior. Most importantly, by altering
      the time during gestation when the female fetus was exposed to androgen,
      Goy masculinized the female offspring's behavior without masculinizing her
      reproductive anatomy or neuroendocrine function. This remarkable finding
      was the first to separate the psychological effects of prenatal hormonal
      manipulations from their effects on reproductive anatomy. This separation
      between physical and psychological effects suggests a possible cause of
      human transsexuality, where one's psychological perception of one's gender
      disagrees with the gender of one's reproductive anatomy.
      
      In addition to his pioneering contributions to our understanding of sexual
      differentiation, Goy made equally important contributions to the study of
      the neural control of sexual behavior. He demonstrated with colleagues Jeff
      Slimp and Ben Hart that medial preoptic lesions eliminate male rhesus
      monkey sexual behavior without eliminating sexual motivation. Similarly,
      with colleagues Ei Terasawa, Stan Wiegand, Thom Nass, Bill Byne, and Ruth
      Bleir, Goy contributed to our understanding of the organization of the
      endocrine hypothalamus and its role in regulating the ovarian cycle.
      
      Throughout his career, Goy championed the role that hormones play in
      activating sex-typical patterns of behavior and how the hormonal
      environment of an individual is a critical component of one's psychological
      makeup. In the 1970s, the male response to changes in female physical
      attractiveness was thought to control rhesus monkey sexuality. Yet, during
      this time, Goy presented the first evidence that the female's ovarian
      hormones modulated her own sexual motivation, not simply how attractive she
      was to a male. This view of hormonally modulated female sexual motivation,
      which took 15 years to demonstrate definitively, solidified our
      understanding of both human and nonhuman primate sexuality.
      
      Following his retirement in 1989, Goy remained active in behavioral
      neuroendocrinology. He supported the fledgling Society for Behavioral
      Neuroendocrinology and collaborated on studies at the Yerkes Regional
      Primate Research Center that addressed the effect of prenatal suppression
      of naturally occurring androgens in fetal males. He also collaborated with
      the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center and the Mayo Clinic on the
      role of prenatal androgen excess in the development of infertility and
      diabetes in women.
      
      During his tenure as director, Goy mentored numerous graduate students,
      postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists in behavioral endocrinology
      and primate development. Goy combined through his teachings a caring and
      thoughtful personal style with a sparkling and masterful intellect. Many of
      his students have become leaders in the fields of neurobiology,
      neuroendocrinology, behavioral endocrinology and primatology.
      
      Goy served as a frequent consultant to the NIH and various professional
      societies. He became the second editor of Hormones and Behavior following
      Frank Beach's retirement. He remained editor until the publication became
      the official journal of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology in
      1996. Goy was also an editorial consultant for several scientific journals
      and books, and he authored or co-authored nearly 200 scientific articles.
      
      Awards Goy received included the Kenneth Craik Award in Physiological
      Psychology from Cambridge University and the Distinguished Scientific
      Contribution Award by the American Psychological Association. The latter is
      awarded to individuals who demonstrate "outstanding theoretical or
      empirical contributions to basic or applied research in psychology." Last
      year, Goy was honored for his lifelong contributions at a special symposium
      of the Inaugural meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.
      
      -Kim Wallen, Ph.D., Emory University, Department of Psychology,
      and Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center