DSC4299 2 Web

Fluctuating hormone levels change women’s brain structure every month

21.10.2016 12:13

The brain is not only able to adapt to changing conditions in long-term processes, but it can do this every month. Researchers at the Max Plank Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig around Branco Weiss fellow Julia Sacher observed that in women, in parallel to the rhythm of the level of estrogen across their menstrual cycle, the structures of the Hippocampus vary. The results of a study on the hormonal influence on the brain structure were published recently in Nature Scientific Reports.

The Researchers found, that in parallel to the rising estrogen levels leading up to ovulation, the Hippocampus also increases in volume—the volume of the grey matter as well as that of the white matter. The neuroscientists have a theory, how these fluctuations of the brain structures precisely affect the behavior and specific cognitive abilities: The Hippocampus plays a crucial role in memories, mood, and emotions. In mice it has already been proven that it is not just this brain structure but also different behaviors which underlie a type of monthly cycle. After testing the results of this first pilot study on the connection between the level of estrogen and the Hippocampus in a larger group of study participants, the researchers will scrutinize the effects on the behavior.

With their findings, the researchers have laid the foundations for their overall goal: Investigating the relationships of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a disorder which affects one in twelve women in the days leading up to her time of the month. These women complain of severe physical and psychological symptoms such as listlessness or mood swings comparable to a depressive episode. “To get a better understanding of this disorder, we first have to find out which monthly rhythm the brain of a healthy woman follows. Only then can we reveal the differences in persons affected by PMDD”, says Julia Sacher.


Read the paper in Nature Scientific Reports

Read the news on Medical Xpress

Read the news on the Independent website

Read the news on the n-tv website (in German)

Read the news on scinexx.de (in German)

Read the news on Der Standard website (in German)