PIs: Vasiliki Michopoulos, PhD & Jennifer Stevens, PhD
Co-Investigators: Abigail Lott, PhD, ABPP, Alicia Smith, PhD, & Britton Chahine, PhD
Characterizing Hormonal Alterations in the Perimenopausal Transition:
Examining Response to Stress
The majority of Americans will experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes, but women are twice as likely as men to experience negative psychiatric outcomes following trauma. This can include greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and PTSD symptoms like hyperarousal and hypersensitivity to trauma related experiences. This risk is increased by low levels of the hormone estradiol (E2) which is known to influence brain regions involved in emotional reactivity. Research has yet to explore how changes in E2 during the menopausal transition influence trauma related hyperarousal and sensitivity.
Women with PTSD often experience changes to their emotional reactions following trauma and reproductive stage may play an important role in how these changes develop across one’s life. In this project, we will investigate how the transition into menopause (perimenopause) contributes to women’s threat response, emotion regulation and consequently risk for PTSD. Women will complete clinical interviews and an MRI scan with skin conductance three times over an 18-month period. At the first visit, participants will also complete a qualitative interview to assess their emotional engagement.
As part of this study, participants can expect to experience:
Clinical Interviews - Clinical interviews are used to learn how people react to stressful life events and their coping strategies. They consist of questions regarding life events, related emotions, and medical history. All answers are confidential and identified by a number (not names) to protect the privacy of our participants.
Qualitative Interviews - Researchers will sit down with participants and discuss how participants’ engage with their emotions. Interviews will be video, and audio recorded in order to be later transcribed. After transcription, files will be deidentified using numbers in order to maintain confidentiality and protect participant privacy.
MRI Scans - Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a large magnet to take detailed internal pictures of the body and brain. By looking at the magnetic properties of blood as it reaches different areas in the brain, functional MRI can be used to observe brain activity.
Skin Conductance Measurements - In response to a surprising environmental cue, the body responds by increasing sweat levels. This response can be measured by placing two sensors on the palm or fingers of one hand and recording the electrical properties of your sweat.