Hormones, Genes, and Cognition
Previous studies have examined how genes important for working memory interact with hormones to influence cognition in women of reproductive age, post-menopausal women, and older men; however, there is limited research examining this interaction in women of reproductive age on oral contraceptives. Does cognition differ between women of reproductive age taking oral contraceptives and women of reproductive age not taking oral contraceptives depending on their genotype?
This study addressed this unanswered question by recruiting women of reproductive age taking and not taking oral contraceptives, genotyping participants, and measuring their cognition and hormone levels. By conducting this study, we hope to gain a better understanding of how genes and hormones influence cognition.
The results may have important implications for women’s health, and benefit the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.
Expressions of Pain in Elderly South Asian Women
The structure and function of the brain is influenced by the context of people’s lives, especially sex and gender. These influences include hormones and genes, as well as culture, social environment and personal life experiences. In turn, these factors can influence our health and successful aging.
The purpose of this study was to understand how elderly immigrant women in the South Asian community experience pain, a topic for which there is currently little to no understanding. Participants completed various questionnaires and a qualitative interview around pain experiences.
The goal of this study is to help increase knowledge about pain in this community that will enable caregivers, doctors and other community members to provide the most appropriate treatment and care to elderly South Asian women.
Mustafa, N., Einstein, G., MacNeill, M., & Watt-Watson, J. The lived experience of chronic pain among immigrant Indian-Canadian women: A phenomenological analysis. Canadian Journal of Pain, 4:3, 40-50.
Frontline Work Behind the Scenes and Under the Skin: Exploring the social and bodily experience of stressful, gendered work in police communications personnel (911 call takers/dispatchers)
The healthy functioning of body systems is shaped by the context of people’s lives. The workplace is an important context in which stress occurs and that stress is often gendered as is evident in the persistence of the gendered division of labour. Feminized work, or what is typically referred to as ‘women’s work’, is often characterized by its emotion work requirements: childcare workers, nurses, flight attendants etc. Evidence shows, professions requiring more emotion work are associated with higher levels of ill health, burnout, emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depression.
This research examines how health is shaped by the emotional components and organization of emotion work, such as police communications.
Birze, A., Leblanc, V., Regehr, C., Paradis, E., & Einstein, G. (2020). Managed or Damaged Heart? Emotional labour, posttraumatic, and gender stressors predict workplace event-related acute changes in cortisol, oxytocin, and heart rate variability. Frontiers in Psychology, section Organizational Psychology, 11, 64.
Exploring the Experiences of Men with a BRCA Gene Mutation
In males, the BRCA gene mutation is linked to a higher risk of inherited breast and prostate cancer.
The purpose of this study is to explore if and how men’s bodies and sense of self are affected by the knowledge that they carry a BRCA mutation, and are therefore at greater risk for breast and prostate cancer. Information will be gathered through individual interviews.
This study aims to increase understanding about the experiences of men living with a BRCA gene mutation. Ultimately, it will inform and improve the health care services for BRCA gene mutation carriers.
Skop, M., Lorentz, J., Jassi, M., Vesprini, D. & Einstein, G. (2018). “Guys Don’t Have Breasts”: The Lived Experience of Men Who Have BRCA Gene Mutations and Are at Risk for Male Breast Cancer. American Journal of Men’s Health 12(4): 961-972.
Mood in Daily Life
The Mood in Daily Life (MIDL) Study investigated the links between mood changes and physical health, social support, perceived stress and the menstrual cycle over twenty four weeks in women of reproductive age living in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Sleep and Mood in Daily Life study aimed to explain how we can improve the sleep of women. Women are thought to have more trouble sleeping than men, but it is not yet understood why this is. This study investigated the importance of the effects of physical health, social support, stress, mood and biology in determining sleep patterns in a community sample of randomly selected women aged 18-40 over a period of six weeks.
Li, D.X., Romans, S., De Souza, M.J., Murray, B., & Einstein, G. (2015) Actigraphic and self-reported sleep quality in women: associations with ovarian hormones and mood. Sleep Medicine 16(10): 1217-1224.
Romans, S., Kreindler, D., Einstein, G., Laredo, S. Petrovic, M.J., & Stanley, J. (2015) Sleep Quality and the Menstrual Cycle. Sleep Medicine 16(4): 489-495.
Romans, S.E., Kreindler, D., Asllani, E., Einstein, G., Laredo, S., Levitt, A., Morgan, K., Petrovic, M., Toner, B., & Stewart, D.E. (2013) Mood and the menstrual cycle. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 82: 53-60.
Romans, S., Clarkson, R., Einstein, G., & Stewart, D. (2012) Premenstrual or perimenstrual? A review of prospective data studies of mood and the menstrual cycle. Gender Medicine 9(5), 361–384.
Schwartz, D., Romans, S., Meiyappan, S., DeSouza, M.J., & Einstein, G. (2012) The role of ovarian steroids in mood. Hormones and Behavior, 62, 448–454.
Neurobiological Effects of Female Genital Circumcision/Mutilation/Cutting (FGC)
Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is a cultural practice that involves cutting muscle and nerves of the female genitalia. Pain research on women with FGC has focused mainly on the procedure itself, menstruation, childbirth, and sexual intercourse. However, it also seems that for many women with FGC, the experience of pain is constant and persistent during daily activities.
Our research focused on whether damage to nerve and muscle at this specific site results in a “rewiring” of the nervous system, leading to a whole body experience of the modification. To test this hypothesis, study volunteers participated in interviews and questionnaires, as well as neurological and physical tests.
The results of this study will improve the health of immigrants and women of a visible minority living in North America. Our findings are also relevant to the health of all women, especially those who have any kind of body modification by cutting—such as FGC, radical vulvectomy, radical mastectomy, and/or cosmetic surgeries such as breast or labia reduction/augmentation.
Einstein, G. (2012) Situated Neuroscience: Elucidating a Biology of Diversity. in: Bluhm, R., Maibom, H., & Jacobson, A.J. (Eds). Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Science, New York: Palgrave McMillan, 145–174.
Einstein, G. (2008) From body to brain: considering the neurobiological effects of female genital cutting. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 51, 84–97.
Sex Differences in Somatosensation
The structure and function of body systems – especially the nervous system – are influenced by the context of people’s lives. These influences include hormones, sex, genetics, and gender, as well as culture, social environment and personal life experiences. In turn, these factors can influence how our bodies function, feel and think.
The purpose of this study is to begin studying sex differences in the somatosensory cortex – the part of the brain that receives information about painful or pleasurable touch, pressure and temperature. We will investigate the factors that influence breast sensitivity, including age, mood and hormone levels.
The information gathered from this research may be beneficial to the scientific community and to future studies of sensation, the breast, hormones, mood, and women’s brain health.