Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe variant of premenstrual syndrome, affects 2-5% of women in their reproductive years, with decreases in quality of life comparable to those observed in major depressive disorder (Epperson et al., 2012;Halbreich et al., 2003;Wittchen et al., 2002). The disorder is nonetheless understudied, and treatment of PMDD is hindered by a lack of knowledge regarding its neurobiological basis. Affective symptoms, such as irritability/anger, depression, mood swings, anxiety, which appear in the luteal phase, suggest that problems with emotion regulation may contribute to the disorder, but we are aware of no study of emotion regulation in women with PMDD. We hypothesize that dysfunction in the neural circuitry that mediates emotion regulation is an important contributor to the affective symptoms of PMDD. The primary objective of this project is to test this idea, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), in women with PMDD and comparison participants without the disorder. Two groups of women (n=18 per group) will undergo fMRI while performing validated tasks that involve presentation of emotionally evocative images, and the intentional and incidental regulation of negative emotional response. Testing will be done during the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when PMDD symptoms occur, and the follicular phase. Success in this project will help clarify the etiology of the symptoms of PMDD, and provide biomarkers for assessing behavioral and pharmacological interventions to ameliorate this disorder.

Public Health Relevance

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is an understudied disorder that afflicts 2-5 percent of women in their childbearing years;it is associated with extreme sadness, anxiety and other disabling emotional symptoms during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Treatment of PMDD is limited by a lack of knowledge of its causes, but both the symptoms and our previous research suggest there may be problems with regulation of emotional responses. To provide information needed for development of more effective treatments, this project will use brain scanning (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to study the brain circuits important for emotion regulation in women with and without PMDD.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Neural Basis of Psychopathology, Addictions and Sleep Disorders Study Section (NPAS)
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Rumsey, Judith M
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
United States
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Petersen, Nicole; London, Edythe D; Liang, Letty et al. (2016) Emotion regulation in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Arch Womens Ment Health 19:891-8