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Pamela Mahon, PhD



Assistant Professor


Brigham and Women's Hospital




Pamela Mahon, Jessica Busler, Huijun Liao, Stanley Lyndon, Jacob Taylor, Alexander Lin

Principal Investigator


Sex hormones as correlates of oxidative stress in the adult brain


Oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species and available antioxidant capacity, is implicated in multiple psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative conditions. Peripheral and preclinical studies suggest oxidative stress differs by biological sex and covaries with estrogens. However, limited knowledge exists on the effect of circulating sex hormones on oxidative stress in the brain in humans in vivo. We aimed to examine the relationship of circulating estrogen with regional concentrations of brain glutathione (GSH) as a marker of oxidative stress. GSH was measured using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) at 7 Tesla in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in 34 individuals (18 females and 16 males). We observed an inverse correlation of estradiol with DLPFC GSH, as well as a trend inverse correlation of estrone with DLPFC GSH, in the combined sample of males and females and in females only. No significant sex differences were observed for GSH levels in the brain. Our study provides evidence of diminished DLPFC GSH in females with higher estradiol, suggesting circulating sex hormones may be important factors to consider in future studies examining brain GSH levels related to psychiatric and other disorders.

Research Context

This work examines the commonly studied neurobiological mechanism of oxidative stress through a sex-informed lens by examining the relationship of estrogens to brain markers of oxidative stress. Our results suggest circulating sex hormones are important factors to consider in studies examining brain GSH levels related to psychiatric and other disorders, and has broad implications for women’s brain health.