“I’m so stressed out.” We have all said or felt this at some point. Much of the time we can pinpoint the external events contributing to this feeling, the “stressors”. Less obvious to many people is how our internal states can contribute to this feeling. There are various internal systems and processes that contribute to how we physiologically process stressors. Likewise, there are various ways to measure “stress”, ranging from physiological responses to stress exposure and subjective ratings of how stressed one feels.
In my research, I focus on the interactions between two endocrine systems, the system that governs the hormone response to stress and the system that governs shifts in female sex hormone states across the adult lifespan. I am primarily interested in how shifts in sex hormone profile affect 1) the magnitude of the cortisol response to stress and 2) how stress impacts cognitive processes.
Some questions I am particularly interested in:
Does estradiol reduce the cortisol response to stress? If so, does estradiol-induced reduction of the cortisol response reduce the effects of stress on cognitive processes?
Is the effect of estradiol on the stress response the same before and after women go through the menopause transition?
Does the dramatic decline in sex hormone levels after menopause contribute to age-related stress system dysfunction?
What features of hormonal contraceptives impact the stress response? The reduction in endogenous hormone production? The introduction of synthetic hormones? The progestin content?
How does the hormonal contraceptive-induced change in the physiological stress response impact cognitive and brain functioning?
Read more about how these endocrine systems interact to affect cognition and brain function below.