Menstrual cycle-related changes in amygdala morphology are associated with changes in stress sensitivity

Authors

  • Lindsey Ossewaarde,

    Corresponding author
    1. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    • Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Guido A. van Wingen,

    1. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Neurology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Mark Rijpkema,

    1. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Torbjörn Bäckström,

    1. Umeå Neurosteroid Research Center, Department of Clinical Science, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Norrlands University Hospital, Umeå, Sweden
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  • Erno J. Hermans,

    1. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Neuroscience, Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, New York
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  • Guillén Fernández

    1. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Neuroscience, Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Abstract

Premenstrual increases in negative mood are thought to arise from changes in gonadal hormone levels, presumably by influencing mood regulation and stress sensitivity. The amygdala plays a major role in this context, and animal studies suggest that gonadal hormones influence its morphology. Here, we investigated whether amygdala morphology changes over the menstrual cycle and whether this change explains differences in stress sensitivity. Twenty-eight young healthy women were investigated once during the premenstrual phase and once during the late follicular phase. T1-weighted anatomical images of the brain were acquired using magnetic resonance imaging and analyzed with optimized voxel-based morphometry. To measure mood regulation and stress sensitivity, negative affect was assessed after viewing strongly aversive as well as neutral movie clips. Our results show increased gray matter volume in the dorsal part of the left amygdala during the premenstrual phase when compared with the late follicular phase. This volume increase was positively correlated with the premenstrual increase in stress-induced negative affect. This is the first study showing structural plasticity of the amygdala in humans at the macroscopic level that is associated with both endogenous gonadal hormone fluctuations and stress sensitivity. These results correspond with animal findings of gonadal hormone-mediated neural plasticity in the amygdala and have implications for understanding the pathogenesis of specific mood disorders associated with hormonal fluctuations. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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