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Members of Connors Center Leadership conduct research that aligns with the research themes of the Center.

The Women’s Hormones and Aging Research Program (WHARP):

Founded by Connors Center Executive Director, Hadine Joffe, MD, MsC, in 2013, The Women’s Hormones and Aging Research Program (WHARP) is a clinical and translational research group based in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and affiliated with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute Division of Breast Oncology and Division of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care.

WHARP aims to advance the understanding of symptoms resulting from changes in reproductive hormones in the brain and to investigate strategies to optimize treatment in women across the menopause transition and in women with breast cancer by using clinical trial, observational, and experimental paradigms in humans. In 2018, trials were initiated for investigations of drugs being tested to treat menopausal symptoms in midlife women and reduce hot flashes and night sweats for women with breast cancer.

Laboratory of Sex/Gender-Informed Translational Neuroscience:

Led by Primavera (Vera) Spagnolo, MD, PhD, the Associate Director of the Connors Center and the Scientific Director of the First.In.Women® Platform, this research program uses behavior analysis, pharmacology, and brain imaging techniques to understand sex-specific and sex-differentiating neurobiological mechanisms behind stress response and emotion regulation contributing to stress- related psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, conversion disorders and addiction. Further, they investigate how biological sex and socio-cultural gender interact in shaping risk, resilience and severity of these disorders. The lab uses experimental medicine studies in healthy volunteers and in specific patient populations to obtain a mechanistic understanding of stress-related psychiatric disorders and carries out clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy in novel therapeutics. The overarching goal is to provide a mechanistic foundation for novel sex and gender-informed treatments of these conditions.

The Developmental Risk and Cultural Resilience Laboratory:

The Developmental Risk and Cultural Resilience Laboratory examines the role of stress and culture on the mental and emotional health of children and families.

Led by Connors Center Director of Psychosocial Stress, Diversity, and Health, Cindy Liu, PhD, this research program utilizes different methodologies to assess psychosocial stress across development and cultures and to identify risks and reduce disparities in mental health. Their work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, American Psychological Association, Sackler Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Holsen Lab:

Led by Connors Center Director of Research Training, Laura Holsen, PhD, the Holsen Lab’s collaborative studies utilize functional neuroimaging and neuroendocrine assessment to define brain-behavior relationships in conditions associated with disordered eating and metabolism, chronic stress, and anhedonia. They also integrate these tools with weight loss treatment approaches to identify how neural circuitry involved in food motivation, cognitive control, and mood regulation promotes successful long-term weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
The goal of the Lab’s work is to ameliorate the negative health outcomes of these conditions through identification of modifiable neurobiological targets that drive appetite, mood-related eating behaviors and cognition, and weight change.

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