Hormonal sensitivity and brain function: Do oral contraceptives distort serotonergic brain architecture and does discontinuation restore it?
Women who use oral contraceptives face an increased risk of developing depressive episodes. We do not know why. Recent cross-sectional findings from our group raises the question if oral contraceptives distort serotonergic brain architecture, which may critically disturb brain function and increase risk of depressive symptoms at least in hormone sensitive women. Using frontier molecular brain imaging techniques and a longitudinal design including baseline, and on-/off states of oral contraceptive use, we here propose to directly illuminate serotonergic brain signatures of using oral contraceptives and determine its reversibility in healthy young women who are first time users. We anticipate that this work will critically advance our understanding of how changes in sex-hormone milieu increase susceptibility for depressive episodes and provide novel preventive and therapeutic opportunities, which holds grand potential to protect mental health.
Neuroimaging of brain pulsations and its impact on human brain disease
Naturally occurring pulsations in the brain are physiologically very important and may be essential for clearance of brain waste products. The novel neuroimaging tool magnetic resonance encephalography (MREG) enables the investigation of these pulsations non-invasively in humans. We propose to exploit this novel tool to understand the outcome measures and apply it in a brain disorder. The first aim is thus to provide deeper mechanistic insight into MREG outcomes and investigate the extent to which MREG detected brain pulsations are linked to intracranial pressure in healthy controls. Subsequently, we aim to probe the diagnostic potential of MREG in a group of patients with idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH), treatable with shunt. iNPH is a neurodegenerative disease which is underdiagnosed and undertreated because current diagnostics poorly predicts who will benefit from shunting. We will assess patients before and after treatment to evaluate the predictive value of MREG.