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The Impact of Sex, Age, and Stress on Cognitive Bias

April 17, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


The Women’s Health Seminar Series features multidisciplinary research on women’s health. The goal of the series is to provide multidisciplinary training and mentorship to faculty, students, and community members across a broad range of women’s health research topics. Speakers will present their research regarding the biological, psychological, behavioural, economic and social impacts on women’s health outcomes through a 45 minute talk and engage with attendees in an interactive 15 minute question and answer period. The series is open to anyone interested in attending!

Presenter: Dr. Travis Hodges, Assistant Professor at Mount Holyoke College

Talk Summary: Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects 20% of the population and women are twice more likely to develop MDD compared with men. Negative cognitive bias is the increased perception of ambiguous situations as negative and predicts the onset of future depressive episodes. Current treatments to reduce MDD symptoms are not effective for reducing negative cognitive bias. Cognitive bias involves pattern separation, which is the ability to discriminate between highly similar situations, and pattern separation relies on hippocampal integrity and is inhibited by inflammation. Cognitive bias was tested in rats using a novel method, and the involvement of neural networks, inflammation, and neurogenesis were measured in male and female rats throughout development and after chronic unpredictable stress. These data provide examples of mechanistic sex differences in the display of negative cognitive bias across development and stress the importance of analysing sex and age when investigating the neurobiology of depressive-like phenotypes.