Last updated on September 2018

The Effects of Reproductive Hormones on Mood and Behavior

Brief description of study

This study evaluates the effects of estrogen and progesterone on mood, the stress response, and brain function in healthy women.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate how low levels of estrogen and progesterone (that occur during treatment with leuprolide acetate) compare to menstrual cycle levels of estrogen and progesterone (given during individual months of hormone add-back) on a variety of physiologic measures (brain imaging, stress testing, etc.) in healthy volunteer women without PMS.

This study will investigate effects of reproductive hormones by temporarily stopping the menstrual cycle with leuprolide acetate and then giving, in sequence, the menstrual cycle hormones progesterone and estrogen. Tests (such as brain imaging or stress testing, etc.) will be performed during the different hormonal conditions (low estrogen and progesterone, progesterone add-back, estrogen add-back). The results of these studies will be compared between women without PMS and women with PMS (see also protocol 90-M-0088).

At study entry, participants will undergo a physical examination. Blood, urine, and pregnancy tests will be performed. Cognitive functioning and stress response will be evaluated during the study along with brain imaging and genetic studies.

Detailed Study Description

Evidence suggests that the gonadal steroids may exert clinically significant effects on central nervous system function. For example, the menstrual cycle may influence the occurrence of seizures in some female epileptics and the performance on certain cognitive tests. Central nervous system effects of gonadal steroids have been inferred largely from changes in behavior occurring in association with presumed changes in gonadal steroids during the normal menstrual cycle, during the administration of ovarian hormones, or in a gender-specific context. These inferences are, by definition, indirect and associational in nature and further are incapable of disentangling the effects of hormones which are simultaneously present in women of reproductive age. This study is designed to address those problems by comparing measures during Lupron-induced hypogonadism with those during replacement with estrogen or progesterone. On the basis of prior findings from our group and from others, we will be asking the following questions: 1) Is the decreased r-CBF that we observed in the prefrontal cortex during the hypogonadal state confirmed in individual women using new imaging techniques; 2) Will variation in genotype (e.g., COMT val/met, BDNF val/met) confer differential sensitivity to ovarian steroids in brain circuitry and 3) Are the menstrual cycle phase-related changes in reward systems that we previously observed related to estradiol or progesterone actions within the brain (1). Additionally, this protocol will serve as a control study for protocol # 90-M-0088.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT00001322

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National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD United States
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