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Kota Chin, BS




Research Staff


Psychiatry Neuroimaging lab (Mass General Brigham)



Kota Chin, Elana Kotler, Owen Borders, Anastasia Haidar, Twishi Puri, Carina Heller, Marek Kubicki, Ann-Christin Kimmig, Birgit Derntl, Zora Kikinis

Principal Investigator


Investigating Volumetric Changes in Brain Areas and Mood Regulation after Stopping Hormonal Oral Contraceptives


Background: Recently, there has been a rise in oral contraceptive (OC) discontinuation, often due to adverse side effects on mood. The mechanism of OCs relies on the addition of synthetic hormones in order to suppress endogenous ovarian hormone fluctuations. Endogenous ovarian hormones are known to influence brain development, but limited research exists on how OCs impact brain structure and function. We aim to investigate the impact of OC cessation on a group of brain structures associated with sex hormones and mood regulation, referred to as the Neural Correlates of Mood (NCoM), and their correlation to depressive symptoms.

Methods: This study included 20 women aged 18-31 (mean = 23.15 years of age, SD = 3.47) who discontinued OCs. Baseline measurements were collected during active OC use and repeated 4-7 months post-cessation. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were conducted at both timepoints. The scans were processed using Freesurfer (v7.1.0) to extract volumetric measurements of the NCoM region, (i.e. anterior cingulate gyrus, orbitofrontal gyrus, medial prefrontal gyrus, hippocampus, amygdala, and basal ganglia). Repeated-measures ANOVA was performed to determine whether discontinuing OCs yielded significant changes in BDI scores and NCoM volume, and the relationship between these measures was then assessed using Pearson’s correlations.

Results: Preliminary results showed a 25% decrease in BDI scores between timepoints, indicating a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (p=.007). However, there was no significant change in the NCoM region volume between timepoints. Pearson’s correlations revealed no relationship between change in BDI scores and NCoM volumes after OC discontinuation (r=.111).

Conclusion: While discontinuing OCs may alleviate depressive symptoms, our study found no short-term impact on volumes of brain areas associated with mood regulation. These findings offer valuable insight into the biological impact of widely used synthetic hormones, prompting further exploration of potential long-term effects.

Research Context

An estimated 151 million women have reported using oral contraceptives (OCs). They are most commonly prescribed to avoid unwanted pregnancies, but may also be used to treat and mitigate the symptoms of other menstrual-related disorders. Despite the popularization and importance of this medication, there still exists a gap in research exploring the psychological and physiological impacts of these synthetic hormones. This study aims to address the gaps in knowledge and further the understanding of OC induced mood dysregulation and its neurological impacts. This provides more information on the relationship between birth control and women’s health that may aid in the development of better treatments.