About the Study
It is popularly thought that stress hormones, such as cortisol, are bad for you and cause depression. However, cortisol is a hormone that is necessary for life. Although chronic elevations of stress hormones can contribute to health problems, brief elevations of cortisol are often beneficial.
The main goal of our study is to identify factors that determine whether brief elevations of stress hormones are beneficial or detrimental for brain function, memory, and emotion. In particular, we hope to learn more about the role of stress hormones in biological and psychological aspects of depression in women.
We hypothesize that depending on one's past experiences, the effects of stress hormones may differ. Thus, a goal of our study is to determine how early life experiences are related to hormones' effects on brain function, memory, and emotion.
Our overall goal is to improve understanding of how stress hormones affect brain function among individuals with differing life experiences. It is our hope that study results will contribute to the development of new treatments for depression.
Am I Eligible?
You may be eligible to participate if you:
- Are female
- Are between 18 & 45 years old
- Are fluent in English
- Are in good general medical health
- Have no metal in your body, such as pins or screws in your joints, a cardiac pacemaker, or piercings that you cannot remove (most dental and orthodontic implants are okay)
- Are not using hormonal contraceptives
- Are not using antidepressant or psychotropic medication
- Have no history of seizures, diabetes, hypertension, neurological problems, and/or cardiac problems
- Are not pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
- If sexually active, are using a method of birth control (other than hormonal contraceptives)
What Does Participation Involve?
Participation involves attending 7 study sessions at the UW Department of Psychiatry, located at 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI.
The main study procedures include:
- Interviews and questionnaires asking about past experiences, mental health, and emotional state
- Two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which involve:
- Taking a pill containing "hydrocortisone" and a placebo pill
- Saliva sampling
- Blood sampling
- Viewing emotional and neutral pictures
- Having sensors placed on your skin for recording physiological information like heart rate and sweat response
- Saliva sampling at home on 4 days, which includes taking a pill containing “dexamethasone” (a medication similar to cortisol) on one of the days
- Memory testing for pictures viewed during scanning sessions
Click here for more information about the study visits.
Will I Be Paid for Participation?
You will receive $450 if you complete the entire study.
Interested in Participating?