Women’s Brain Project

Depression and dementias affect women more often than men, but the effects of sex and gender on mental health have not been well investigated and specific therapies have yet to be developed. The newly founded “Women’s Brain Project” seeks to close this gap by fostering pre-clinical and clinical research of mental disease in the female brain.

It is not common knowledge that depression and dementias, leading mental health conditions, disproportionately affect women (see WHO webpage). Women are nearly two times more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression and they represent two-thirds of older adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Importantly, two-thirds of caregivers to Alzheimer’s disease patients are also women. In an unfortunate vicious cycle, caregivers often develop depression due to the enormous burden of their responsibilities and become patients themselves.

Women therefore appear to be twice as vulnerable to the aforementioned conditions; first, because of yet unclear biological factors that increase their risk of developing these conditions and worsen their outcome, and second because of women’s role as caregivers in most societies. Both factors, i.e. sex (the female brain’s biological make up) and gender (women’s socioeconomic milieu) are just starting to be investigated in the context of mental health. However, very little is currently known in this field and a personalized sex and gender-based therapy for mental health conditions has still to come. While promoting mental health has been identified as a key goal for global health development by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015, this will only be achieved with a thorough understanding of the roles of sex and gender in mental illness.

Aims of the Women’s Brain Project
To foster discussion on the specific vulnerability of the female brain to mental diseases, a new organization has recently been founded in Switzerland: the “Women’s Brain Project”. Its goal is to identify specific needs related to women’s brain health and present the findings for the benefit of society.

To do so, the organization seeks to

  1. create peer-reviewed scientific contributions about the gender-specific causes of mental health problems in women as well as identify mediating and protective factors
  2. encourage gender-based study design in both pre-clinical and clinical research, and
  3. Promote the use of novel technologies to improve mental health in women

If you would like to learn more about this initiative and/or wish to participate, please
visit: http://www.womensbrainproject.com/,
or contact: Dr. Maria Teresa Ferretti or info@womensbrainproject.com