Women experience unrivalled drastic natural changes in sex hormone levels over the lifespan. These hormones are produced by the ovaries in individuals of the female biological sex (in this context referred to as female, woman, or girl), but we now know they also exert regulatory effects outside the reproductive tract. Effects of ovarian hormones on brain plasticity and function are manifold, affecting, for example, behavioral, cognitive, affective, and motivational processes, thus ultimately influencing mental health. Puberty, menstrual cycle, hormonal contraception, pregnancy, and menopause are hence all critical transition periods in a female’s life. Along with the hormonal shifts, these periods are associated with major changes in physical, psychological, and psychosocial factors as well as increased risk of affective, anxiety, and stress-related symptoms. Thus, the effects of these hormonal fluctuations have far-reaching consequences at both an individual and societal level.
Despite the widespread variety in the effects of hormonal changes, our understanding of how they together contribute to functioning and well-being in girls and women at different ages is strikingly little. The main aim of this workshop is to address this pressing gap by bringing together experts from psychology, psychiatry, neuroendocrinology, gynecology, and neuroscience to develop an interdisciplinary framework and set up a broad research initiative that will foster research on well-being and mental health across the female lifespan.
The main aims for the workshop are as follows:
(1) Identify and address the most important theoretical and methodological challenges that currently impede harmonization of research efforts.
(2) Develop an interdisciplinary framework for the investigation of hormonal fluctuations across the female lifespan.
(3) Prepare an EU COST Action proposal to establish an interdisciplinary European research network that will investigate the effects of hormonal fluctuations on neurocognitive and affective functioning across the female lifespan for four years.