Lisa Mosconi, PhD is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in Neurology and Radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM), and the Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at WCM/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Her current two-year grant is the fifth WAM Research Grant she has received. Her research investigates how menopause affects the brain.
Read our conversation with Dr. Mosconi below:
WAM: You have a two year grant to study which areas of the brain affect specific symptoms of menopause. What do you think you may find?
Dr. Mosconi: While generally regarded as a single clinical entity, menopause is a heterogeneous clinical syndrome accompanied by as many as 25 different symptoms, many of which neurological in nature. While fewer than 10% of women report no “brain symptoms” of menopause, the remaining 80% does, including mostly vaso-motor symptoms (hot flashes), but also changes in mood, sleep, energy, sex drive, and cognition, among other factors. Such remarkable heterogeneity suggests that there are multiple types of menopause. The goal of our study is to identify “brain subtypes” of menopause according to each woman’s individual “brain signature”.
WAM: How do you think understanding which parts of the brain are responsible for symptoms may help advance our understanding of women’s health?
Dr. Mosconi: Our goals is identify distinct brain types of menopause, or neuro-types, based on simultaneous assessment of menopausal symptoms and brain imaging data. This will allow us to determine whether specific patterns of brain changes during menopause predict memory decline, for example, or deposition of Alzheimer’s plaques. The general idea is that the more symptoms a woman has, the more changes her brain is undergoing, and the higher likelihood of experiencing vulnerability to Alzheimer’s during menopause. Overall I think our study is in a unique position to identify novel female-specific risk factors for brain aging and AD that focus on menopause as an activating factor. This knowledge is crucial for precision medicine therapies for AD prevention as well as to informing women’s health counseling.
WAM: How has the WAM seed grant program helped further your research?
Dr. Mosconi: We started working with WAM six years ago, when we were beginning to look at creative ways to test the hypothesis that menopause and the loss of estrogen might be a critical risk factor for AD. That included expensive imaging of women’s brains, which the WAM Grants helped us obtain. Since then, the studies WAM has funded have not only furthered specific research into the importance of the perimenpause and menopause as transitional times for women’s brain health, but they became part of the very foundation that earned us the larger NIH grants that really are necessary when doing major medical research. It takes someone believing in a creative idea that needs proof of concept before you can make a case for a larger investment in funding. Thanks to WAM, we were able to do so.