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RESEARCH

Hypothalamus in 3D
Hypothalamus in 3D

Given our lifespan approach to the study of sex differences, the work of the laboratory can be described as population-level neuroscience. The research team consists of an interdisciplinary team of investigators, integrating epidemiology, structural and functional magnetic resonance and diffusion tensor imaging (i.e., sMRI, fMRI and DTI), psychophysiology (e.g., heart rate/autonomic nervous system indicators), hormones, genes, and immune activation biomarkers. We collaborate with basic neuroscientists investigating steroid hormones, genes, immune pathways, and the brain.

Functional domains of interest include the stress response circuitry (mood and anxiety), aging of the memory circuitry (including long-term memory and working memory), and reward circuitry implicated in the neural circuitry of obesity, food motivation and energy balance. Current NIH-funded projects investigate these brain circuitries in depression and its comorbidity with cardiometabolic disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar psychoses. Included in this work, Goldstein and colleagues have been following a prenatal cohort over the last 20 years (initiated in 1959-1966 following pregnant mothers and their offspring for 7 years), allowing us to re-recruit offspring as 50-60 year old adults and study in vivo the fetal programming of sex differences in adult onset diseases. The work is contributing to understanding the nature of psychiatric disorders, the impact of one's sex, and normal properties of the male and female brain in the face of disease.

TOPICS

SEX DIFFERENCES IN THE HEALTHY BRAIN

What underlying neurobiological mechanisms  give rise to sex differences in the healthy brain as it develops over time?

DEPRESSION & COMORBIDITY WITH CARDIOMETABOLIC DISORDERS

MDD has a high rate of comorbidity with general medical disorders such as cardiovascular disease & metabolic syndrome, which exhibit significant sex differences.

SEX DIFFERENCES IN MEMORY & BRAIN AGING

There are sex-dependent brain & physiologic factors that contribute to higher frequencies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in women.

TRANSLATION: DEPRESSION & HYPERTENSION THERAPEUTICS

Exploring the potential effects of  non-invasive, transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation

SEX DIFFERENCES IN SCHIZOPHRENIA

Dr. Goldstein and her team have investigated hypotheses regarding the role of one's sex in understanding schizophrenia for almost 30 years.

Subject Populations

Our lab considers research participants to be one of the most valuable assets to our work.  We are fortunate to have three distinct sources from which we recruit our participants, which allow us to conduct studies utilizing various designs and methods.

NEW ENGLAND FAMILY STUDY [NEFS]

The New England Family Study (NEFS) consists of the Boston and Providence sites of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project (NCPP), a national birth cohort which enrolled 66,000 pregnant women at 12 sites between 1959-1966.  The offspring were initially followed from birth through age seven.  The original NCPP created this large longitudinal study of thousands of mothers and infants to learn more about prenatal and early childhood risk factors for health disorders and to help reduce childhood disease.  We have continued to follow the New England Cohort (n = 17,000), a random community sample of pregnancies and highly representative of the general population.  The offspring are now middle-aged adults. This fetal to adulthood design allows us to study pre-/peri-natal and childhood factors (including genetic, personal and family health, and environment), and their potential moderating effects.  The NEFS also enables us to construct case-control, high-risk, and sibling-set comparative studies using siblings with shared genes and environments but discordant early health factors or varying outcomes in adulthood. The NEFS, an invaluable resource, has been used in our studies of mental health, memory and healthy aging, and cardiometabolic outcomes.  (https://sites.google.com/a/brown.edu/nefs/)

 

 

 

NEFS

COMMUNITY BASED SAMPLES

Our community-based studies recruit adults from the general population.  We recruit, screen, and enroll participants in accordance with the specific criteria of a given protocol.   Members of the community learn of these studies via hospital recruitment web sites such as RSVP for Health as well as from online and on-foot community bulletin boards. Click the links below to see each recruitment page:

Sex Differences in Depression Subject Recruitment           tVNS Clinical Research 

biobank

 Partners BioBank Healthy Aging Translational Cohort (HATCH):

The Partners Biobank is a resource to affiliated clinicians and researchers who study the impact of genes, lifestyle, and other factors on health and risk for disease.  The Partners Biobank registers primary and specialty care clinic patients who have consented to participate in BioBank collaborated research.  Upon enrollment, these subjects provided a blood sample for the purpose of banking DNA and other biosamples.  As a resource to researchers, the Biobank includes state-of-the-art language regarding genetics, integration of electronic medical records with research data, and the ability to re-contact subjects.   To date, the Biobank has included over 70,000 participants; enrollment is ongoing.  We are currently examining a cohort of 10,000 subjects known as the Healthy Aging Translational Cohort (HATCH). We expect to enlarge this cohort as work progresses.