The Importance of Studying Interactions With Ovarian Hormones: Implications for Depressive Symptoms in Premenopausal and Menopausal Women
The relevance of depression in the clinical realm is well known, as it is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Clinical depression is the leading cause of disease for women worldwide. The sex difference in depression and anxiety has guided the research of not just recent studies but older studies as well, supporting the theory that gonadal hormones are associated with the mechanisms of emotional cognition. The scientific literature points towards a clear correlative relationship between gonadal hormones, especially estrogens, and emotion regulation. This thesis investigates the neural pathways that have been indicated to regulate mood and anxiety. Currently, the research points to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which regulates the stress response through its ultimate secretion of cortisol through the adrenal cortex, and its modulated response when exposed to higher levels of estrogen. Another mechanism that has been investigated is the interaction of estrogen and the serotonergic system, which is noteworthy because the serotonergic system is known for its importance in mood regulation. However, it is important to note that the research seeking to determine the neurobiological underpinnings of estrogen and the serotonergic system is not expansive. Future research should focus on determining the direct relationship between cortisol hypersecretion and estrogens, the specific neurobiological effects of serotonergic receptor subtypes on the antidepressant actions of estrogens, and the simultaneous effects of the stress and serotonergic systems on depressive symptoms.