Depression in the pubertal transition: Circadian rhythms and sleep impairment as mechanisms of risk
2020 Award: $37,920
Puberty is characterized by dramatic reproductive hormone instability, sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances, and an increased risk for depression, especially for girls. This study will examine the role of estrogen fluctuation in regulating sleep and circadian rhythms to understand risk for female-dominated adolescent depression. The pubertal transition is a critical developmental window offering a unique opportunity for identifying novel treatment targets and intervention efforts to diverge mental illness trajectories.
Need/Problem: Adolescent girls have a three-fold greater risk for depression and a two-fold greater risk for sleep disorders compared with boys. The pubertal transition marks an abrupt divergence between the sexes in risk for depression and sleep disorders, implicating ovarian hormones (e.g., estrogen) as a common pathway of risk. With the prevalence of female adolescent depression rising, and earlier onset of depression predicting a more debilitating course of illness, identifying the causes of mood impairment in the pubertal transition will have a major public health impact.
Grant Summary: With the Foundation of Hope’s support, this research will use a novel multimodal approach to characterize the biobehavioral model by which estrogen impacts circadian rhythm dysregulation (melatonin and cortisol) and sleep pattern irregularity in the pubertal transition. This is a critical first step in identifying mechanisms of risk for female adolescent depression.
Goals and Projected Outcomes: Investigating the role of estrogen on circadian rhythms and sleep during the pubertal transition, and the moderating role of interpersonal stress, will provide mechanistic insight into the neurobiological basis of depression at a critical developmental window for intervention and prevention efforts. The primary goal of this research is to identify novel treatment targets and intervention approaches for the early detection and prediction of adolescent mood disorders.