Principal Investigator (PI)

PD Dr. Julia Sacher
Minerva research group leader, Equal opportunities officer
Phone: +49 341 9940-2409

Department of Neurology

EGG (Emotion & neuroimaGinG) Lab

explores how subtle hormonal changes impact mood regulation.

Every year nearly twice as many women as men develop a depressive illness. While this suggests that sex hormones play a key role in depression, it is understood neither in depression, nor in health how they affect mood. Eighty percent of women of reproductive age experience some level of irritability and mood fluctuation shortly before their periods. Some of these women suffer from clinical level premenstrual melancholia that can lead to impaired quality of life with disruptions in work and relationships. There is very little public awareness of this issue, which creates a significant barrier to diagnosis and treatment.

Although the etiology of premenstrual depressed mood remains uncertain at present, researchers now concur that these disorders have biological correlates and cannot purely be explained by psychological events. Recent research indicates that women who are vulnerable to premenstrual mood changes do not have abnormal levels of hormones, but rather a particular sensitivity to normal cyclical hormonal changes. Very little is known about how the living brain is influenced by the subtle hormonal changes that occur naturally across the menstrual cycle.

Our findings will help prevent and treat severe premenstrual mood change, and elucidate the link between sex hormones and depression. Our work is supported by the Society in Science, a Branco Weiss fellowship to Dr. Julia Sacher.


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Depression and Neuroplasticity

We explore the neurochemical, functional and structural changes in the human brain that occur during a depressive episode across the lifespan. ... [more]

Serotonin and Neuroplasticity

While the serotonergic system is thought to be a crucial mediator of intrinsic brain activity, the precise role of serotonin in modulating functional organization of the human brain is not known. ... [more]

Sex hormones and Neuroplasticity

Major depressive disorder has a female to male ratio of about 5:2, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition of clinical level ... [more]
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