Mental illness has many gender-specific aspects that clinical research has not always addressed. For example, in conditions such as schizophrenia, the age of onset and pattern of symptoms commonly seen is different for women and men. Women and men may also respond differently to medications or other treatments. In addition, changes in the level of sex hormones such as estrogen are known to affect symptoms.
The Women’s Mental Health team is working on numerous aspects of women’s mental health, the experiences of women with mental illness and potential options for treatment. To find out more about current projects click here or for schizophrenia treatments for men and women click here.
One particular focus of our research is the role of the neuroendocrine system in mental illnesses, and specifically the use of female hormones to improve the results of treatment. We are conducting ground-breaking research into the use of estrogen to improve symptoms in schizophrenia and the use of selective brain estrogens in postmenopausal women. We are also exploring possible links between the oral contraceptive pill and depression.
Another important project is NRAMP, the National Register of Antipsychotic Medications in Pregnancy. This is the first register of its kind worldwide. NRAMP aims to create a database of information about the effects of antipsychotic medications taken during pregnancy and the postnatal period. More information about NRAMP is available here.
You can watch an overview here.
We are currently recruiting for the following projects:
For further enquiries please contact Gayan De Mel on tel: +61 03 9076 8045
Adjunctive SERM Hormone Treatment for Men and Women with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder
Increasing evidence points to the protective role of estrogen in the brain, and for its positive effect on the symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. However, adverse effects on breast and uterine tissue in females, and feminisation of males, limit the long-term therapeutic use of estrogen in this population.
Raloxifene is a new hormone treatment that belongs to a group of medications called Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs). Raloxifene is thought to have positive estrogenic effects in the brain without affecting peripheral body tissue, thus offering a longer-term treatment approach with potential mental health and cognitive benefits, and few estrogen-related side effects.
Raloxifene for men as well as for women?
Although more commonly associated with women, estrogen is also a naturally occurring hormone in the bodies of men, and is already used clinically to reverse bone loss, enhance cardiovascular function and treat prostate cancer. The advantage of using raloxifene instead of estrogen in men is that the beneficial effects of estrogen can be experienced in the brain without the feminising side effects typically associated with hormone treatments.
To examine whether adding raloxifene 120mg/day to regular antipsychotic treatment can improve psychotic symptoms, and mood and cognitive functioning, for men and women with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
Men and women who are 18+, who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, are invited to take part in this study.
This study is a 12-week randomised controlled trial. Participants will be randomly selected to receive daily either 1) 120mg raloxifene, or 2) inactive placebo. Participants will meet with the study coordinator, Dr Jasmin Grigg, every two weeks to monitor psychotic and mood symptoms, and memory functioning will be assessed twice during the study. The occurrence of any unwanted side effects is also monitored.
Following completion of the trial, participants meet with the chief investigator, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, to discuss their study outcomes.
Participants will be reimbursed for their time and travel can be negotiated.
The study is currently recruiting participants.
Dr Natalie Thomas
For more information, please contact Natalie Thomas on (03) 9076 5033 or via email email@example.com
The Women's Mental Health Team coordinates a number of treatment and intervention trials focused on the gender differences in psychiatric care.
Double-Blind randomised investigation of Tibolone as an adjunct to standard antidepressant treatment for relapsed and persistent depression in peri- and post-menopausal women
Aim: To examine the efficacy of a tissue-selective hormone treatment for menopausal depression.
Participants: Women between the ages of 45 and 65 years of age who have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (Major Depression) or are currently experiencing depressive symptoms that have relapsed during peri or post menopause.
Method: This is 12 week randomised controlled trial where participants will be randomly allocated to one of two study groups where they will receive either; 1) tibolone or 2) placebo daily. Researchers from the Women's Mental Health team will speak with participants fortnightly (over the phone) then monthly throughout the treatment trial to monitor how they are progressing.
Project status: Currently recruiting
Researchers: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Ms Emmy Gavrilidis, Dr Natalie Thomas, Dr Caroline Gurvich, Dr Rosie Worsley
Study Coordinator: Dr Natalie Thomas
Contact information: For more information, please contact Natalie Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org or 9076 5033
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