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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Section on Behavioral Endocrinology Behavioral Endocrinology Branch

About Us

Mission Statement

To study the role of ovarian hormones in mood state regulation, to identify the mechanisms underlying and treatments for reproductive endocrine-related mood disorders.

The Section on Behavioral Endocrinology (SBE) at the NIMH has an extensive clinical program examining psychiatric disturbances occurring during stages in a woman’s life associated with changes in reproductive endocrine activity. The reproductive endocrine system may play a major role in the modulation of mood state and in some women, their susceptibility to develop a mood disorder.

In our studies we take advantage of the experiments of nature that these conditions represent, since they provide us with a window into the neuroregulatory effects of reproductive steroids in humans. We feel it is important to study all three of these conditions because the impact of a change in reproductive function will differ across the lifecycle, and the effects of a change in hormones on brain and behavior could differ as a function of age, past experience, and different biological vulnerabilities.

The Section examines the role of hormones (gonadal steroids) during pregnancy and the postpartum, the menopause transition and perimenopause, and the normal menstrual cycle. Additionally, we have commenced a high density longitudinal study examining the effects of puberty-related hormones and growth events n normal brain development.

The major future goal of the Section is to identify those factors that confer differential sensitivity to the mood destabilizing effects of hormones, employing metabolic, genomic, and neuro-imaging strategies.

Reproductive endocrine-related mood disorders are associated with significant disease-related disability and mortality; yet little is known about the role of gonadal steroids in the pathophysiology of these conditions.

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