The incidence of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, in women is twice that in men. Moreover, women are susceptible to a distinct group of mood disorders that are associated with fluctuations in ovarian hormone levels, including premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and hormone replacement therapy induced negative mood. A precipitating factor in these disorders may be chronic exposure to psychosocial stressors and increased activation of the body?s primary stress axis. The occurrence of these mood disorders in women is complicated by the presence of other adverse health outcomes. Notably, eating disorders, such as emotional eating and obesity, are highly co-morbid with affective disorders, having similar disruptions in neurobiological systems present within individuals diagnosed with mood disorders. The long-term objective of the proposal is to elucidate the mechanisms by which progestagens modulate the disruption of stress axis and the serotonergic (5HT) system, both of which have been implicated in the etiology of mood and eating disorders in women. The central goal of this proposal is to implicate the disruption of allopregnanolone (ALLO), a specific progesterone, levels as a critical player in the disruption of systems associated with increased emotional and stress axis reactivity characteristic of affective disorders.
The first aim i s to evaluate how progestagens modulate socially induced changes in emotional reactivity and appetite.
The second aim i s to determine whether changes in ALLO and associated behavioral phenotypes are due to stress-induced activity. We will make use of an ethologically relevant model of psychosocial stress, employing hormonal and pharmacological means to assess emotional behavior and preference for a high calorie diet.

Public Health Relevance

Women are twice as susceptible as men to mood and eating disorders, including anxiety, depression, obesity, and emotional eating. Studying the mechanisms by which psychosocial stress disrupts the actions of ovarian hormones will speak to the development of anxiety-based psychopathology in women.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F02A-J (20))
Program Officer
Vogel, Michael W
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Emory University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Michopoulos, Vasiliki (2016) Stress-induced alterations in estradiol sensitivity increase risk for obesity in women. Physiol Behav 166:56-64
Michopoulos, Vasiliki; Rothbaum, Alex O; Jovanovic, Tanja et al. (2015) Association of CRP genetic variation and CRP level with elevated PTSD symptoms and physiological responses in a civilian population with high levels of trauma. Am J Psychiatry 172:353-62
Toufexis, D; Rivarola, M A; Lara, H et al. (2014) Stress and the reproductive axis. J Neuroendocrinol 26:573-86
Howell, Brittany R; Godfrey, Jodi; Gutman, David A et al. (2014) Social subordination stress and serotonin transporter polymorphisms: associations with brain white matter tract integrity and behavior in juvenile female macaques. Cereb Cortex 24:3334-49
Embree, M; Michopoulos, V; Votaw, J R et al. (2013) The relation of developmental changes in brain serotonin transporter (5HTT) and 5HT1A receptor binding to emotional behavior in female rhesus monkeys: effects of social status and 5HTT genotype. Neuroscience 228:83-100
Moore, Carla J; Michopoulos, Vasiliki; Johnson, Zachary P et al. (2013) Dietary variety is associated with larger meals in female rhesus monkeys. Physiol Behav 119:190-4
Johnson, Z P; Lowe, J; Michopoulos, V et al. (2013) Oestradiol differentially influences feeding behaviour depending on diet composition in female rhesus monkeys. J Neuroendocrinol 25:729-41
Michopoulos, Vasiliki; Reding, Katherine M; Wilson, Mark E et al. (2012) Social subordination impairs hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function in female rhesus monkeys. Horm Behav 62:389-99
Michopoulos, Vasiliki; Higgins, Melinda; Toufexis, Donna et al. (2012) Social subordination produces distinct stress-related phenotypes in female rhesus monkeys. Psychoneuroendocrinology 37:1071-85
Michopoulos, Vasiliki; Toufexis, Donna; Wilson, Mark E (2012) Social stress interacts with diet history to promote emotional feeding in females. Psychoneuroendocrinology 37:1479-90

Showing the most recent 10 out of 15 publications