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1.  Association study of the estrogen receptor gene ESR1 with post-partum depression – a pilot study 
Archives of women's mental health  2013;16(6):10.1007/s00737-013-0373-8.
Perinatal mood disorders, such as postpartum depression (PPD) are costly for society, with potentially serious consequences for mother and child. While multiple genes appear to play a role in PPD susceptibility, the contributions of specific genetic variations remain unclear. Previously implicated as a candidate gene, the estrogen receptor alpha gene (ESR1) is a key player in mediating hormonal differences during pregnancy and the postpartum period. This study addresses genetic factors in perinatal mood disorders, testing 9 polymorphisms in ESR1. 257 postpartum women were screened for mood disorders, including 52 women with PPD and 32 without any symptoms of mood disorders. We detected a significant association for the upstream TA microsatellite repeat with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (p=0.007). The same variant was also associated with the occurrence of PPD. Separately, 11 candidate functional polymorphisms in 7 additional genes were genotyped to investigate gene-gene interaction with the ESR1 TA repeat, identifying a potential interaction with the serotonin transporter. Our results support a role for ESR1 in the etiology of PPD, possibly through the modulation of serotonin signaling. Our findings for ESR1 could have broad implications for other disorders and therapies that involve estrogens.
PMCID: PMC3833886  PMID: 23917948
Post-partum depression; Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; ESR1 Estrogen receptor; Genetic variation; SNP
2.  Disparate Rates of New-Onset Depression During the Menopausal Transition in 2 Community-based Populations: Real, or Really Wrong? 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;177(10):1148-1156.
This study took place in eastern Massachusetts and included respondents from the Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles Cohort 1, enrolled between 1995 and 1997, and the Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles Cohort 2, enrolled between 2005 and 2009. In prospectively assessing rates of new-onset depression in 2 populations of late-reproductive–aged women with no Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) lifetime history of depression, we were surprised to find far lower rates of depression in the population with greater racial diversity and lower socioeconomic status, contrary to what had been reported in the scientific literature. To better understand why these disparate results occurred, we assessed confounding and outcome misclassification as potential explanations for the discrepancy. After determining that these were unlikely explanations for the findings, we explored 2 potential sources of selection bias: one induced by self-referral of healthy participants into the study and the other induced by the design of the study itself. We concluded that both types of selection bias were likely to have occurred in this study and could account for the observed difference in rates.
PMCID: PMC3649637  PMID: 23589585
bias; depression; prospective studies
3.  Steroid concentrations in antepartum and postpartum saliva: normative values in women and correlations with serum 
Saliva has been advocated as an alternative to serum or plasma for steroid monitoring. Little normative information is available concerning expected concentrations of the major reproductive steroids in saliva during pregnancy and the extended postpartum.
Matched serum and saliva specimens controlled for time of day and collected less than 30 minutes apart were obtained in 28 women with normal singleton pregnancies between 32 and 38 weeks of gestation and in 43 women during the first six months postpartum. Concentrations of six steroids (estriol, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone) were quantified in saliva by enzyme immunoassay.
For most of the steroids examined, concentrations in antepartum saliva showed linear increases near end of gestation, suggesting an increase in the bioavailable hormone component. Observed concentrations were in agreement with the limited data available from previous reports. Modal concentrations of the ovarian steroids were undetectable in postpartum saliva and, when detectable in individual women, approximated early follicular phase values. Only low to moderate correlations between the serum and salivary concentrations were found, suggesting that during the peripartum period saliva provides information that is not redundant to serum.
Low correlations in the late antepartum may be due to differential rates of change in the total and bioavailable fractions of the circulating steroid in the final weeks of the third trimester as a consequence of dynamic changes in carrier proteins such as corticosteroid binding globulin.
PMCID: PMC3635986  PMID: 23575245
Saliva; Steroid; Enzyme immunoassay; Radioimmunoassay; Pregnancy; Postpartum; Gestation; Hormone
4.  Stress response in postpartum women with and without obsessive–compulsive symptoms: an fMRI study 
During the postpartum period, some women might be under a considerable amount of stress and at increased risk for onset or exacerbation of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Little is known about the stress response correlates during the postpartum period and in patients with OCD. This study aimed to examine the cerebral, psychologic and endocrine correlates of the stress response in patients with OCD and during the postpartum period.
Women with postpartum OCD, healthy postpartum women and healthy mothers past the postpartum period underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while facing a reliable psychosocial stressor (the Montreal Imaging Stress Task). Stress-related psychologic and endocrine responses (i.e., cortisol) were obtained.
We enrolled 12 women with postpartum OCD, 16 healthy postpartum women and 11 healthy mothers past the postpartum period in our study. Compared with healthy postpartum counterparts, postpartum women with OCD had a heightened self-reported and endocrine stress response associated with a distinct brain activation pattern in response to psychosocial stress involving the orbitofrontal and temporal cortices. Moreover, compared with mothers assessed in a period of time beyond the postpartum period, healthy postpartum women did not differ in psychologic and cortisol response to stress, but recruited different brain regions, such as the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, during exposure to stress.
Potential confounding factors, such as medication use, breastfeeding, parity and personality factors, may have modulated the stress-related endocrine response and could not be assessed in this study.
Obsessive–compulsive disorder and the postpartum period differentially influence the brain circuitry underlying psychosocial stress as well as the psychologic and endocrine responses.
PMCID: PMC3297066  PMID: 22122779
5.  Summary of the NIA-sponsored Conference on Depressive Symptoms and Cognitive Complaints in the Menopausal Transition 
Menopause (New York, N.Y.)  2010;17(4):815-822.
This NIA-sponsored workshop was aimed at understanding the impact of the menopausal transition on mood symptoms and cognitive disorders during the menopausal transition and identifying research priorities for further investigation. Longitudinal studies provide insights into the frequency of these problems in representative samples of midlife women. The majority of women do not experience serious depressive symptoms during the transition, but a subgroup of women is at increased risk. Slight changes in memory function and processing speed are evident during the transition, and physiological factors associated with hot flashes may contribute to memory problems. Clinical trial evidence indicates that estradiol therapy can be effective in treating perimenopausal depression. There is some limited evidence of a cognitive benefit with estrogen alone therapy in younger postmenopausal women, and stronger evidence that certain forms of combination hormone therapy produce modest deficits in verbal memory in younger and older women. Identifying a cognitively neutral or beneficial combination therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms in naturally menopausal women is an important goal for future research. Pharmacological challenge studies bridge the basic science and clinical literatures to provide insights into the extent to which changes in endogenous and exogenous hormones and other neurotransmitter systems contribute to cognitive and mood problems. Routine evaluation of depressive symptoms in perimenopausal women is warranted by the literature. Quick and valid screening tools for assessing depression in the clinic are available on-line and free of charge.
PMCID: PMC2901893  PMID: 20616668
Menopause; Cognition; Mood; Perimenopause; Depression
6.  Psychosocial predictors of the onset of anxiety disorders in women: Results from a prospective 3-year longitudinal study 
Journal of anxiety disorders  2009;23(8):1165-1169.
In a prospective, longitudinal, population-based study of 643 women participating in the Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles we examined whether psychosocial variables predicted a new or recurrent onset of an anxiety disorder. Presence of anxiety disorders was assessed every six months over three years via structured clinical interviews. Among individuals who had a new episode of anxiety, we confirmed previous findings that history of anxiety, increased anxiety sensitivity (the fear of anxiety related sensations), and increased neuroticism were significant predictors. We also found trend level support for assertiveness as a predictor of anxiety onset. However, of these variables, only history of anxiety and anxiety sensitivity provided unique prediction. We did not find evidence for negative life events as a predictor of onset of anxiety either alone or in interaction with other variables in a diathesis-stress model. These findings from a prospective longitudinal study are discussed in relation to the potential role of such predictors in primary or relapse prevention efforts.
PMCID: PMC2760601  PMID: 19699609
7.  Can depression be a menopause-associated risk? 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:79.
There is little doubt that women experience a heightened psychiatric morbidity compared to men. A growing body of evidence suggests that, for some women, the menopausal transition and early postmenopausal years may represent a period of vulnerability associated with an increased risk of experiencing symptoms of depression, or for the development of an episode of major depressive disorder. Recent research has begun to shed some light on potential mechanisms that influence this vulnerability. At the same time, a number of studies and clinical trials conducted over the past decade have provided important data regarding efficacy and safety of preventative measures and treatment strategies for midlife women; some of these studies have caused a shift in the current thinking of how menopausal symptoms should be appropriately managed.
Essentially, most women will progress from premenopausal into postmenopausal years without developing significant depressive symptoms. However, those with prior history of depression may face a re-emergence of depression during this transition while others may experience a first episode of depression in their lives. Here I provide an overview of what is known about risk factors for depression and the risk posed by the menopausal transition, its associated symptoms, and the underlying changes in the reproductive hormonal milieu, discussing the evidence for the occurrence of mood symptoms in midlife women and the challenges that face clinicians and health professionals who care for this population.
PMCID: PMC3003619  PMID: 21122126
9.  Psychopharmacology for the Clinician 
PMCID: PMC2964365  PMID: 20964958
10.  Reproductive hormone sensitivity and risk for depression across the female life cycle: A continuum of vulnerability? 
Throughout most of their lives, women are at greater risk for depression than men. Hormones and neurotransmitters share common pathways and receptor sites in areas of the brain linked to mood, particularly through the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. It has been hypothesized that women presenting with episodes of depression associated with reproductive events (i.e., premenstrual, postpartum, menopausal transition) may be particularly prone to experiencing depression, in part because of a heightened sensitivity to intense hormonal fluctuations. The menopausal transition, for example, appears to represent a window during which some women might be more vulnerable to the development of first onset or recurrent depressive symptoms and major depressive episodes. In this review, we examine the association between hormone changes and increased risk of developing depression. Some of the underlying mechanisms that may contribute to such an increased risk are discussed critically, with a special emphasis on the events occurring during the menopausal transition. Last, we explore some of the clinical and therapeutic implications of hormone-modulated depression in women.
PMCID: PMC2440795  PMID: 18592034
depression; estrogens; hormone replacement therapy; menopause; premenstrual syndrome; pregnancy.

Results 1-10 (10)