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SJHH ... / Health Services/ Mental Health & Addiction Services/ Mental Health Services/ Women's Health Concerns Clinic (WHCC)/ Current Research of WHCC

Current Research of WHCC

The WHCC conducts research studies in order to advance our understanding of women’s mental health across the reproductive cycle, and to ultimately enhance patient care. Members of the WHCC team have published extensively in books and peer-reviewed scientific journals, and are internationally renowned for their contributions to the area of women’s mental health.

There are many opportunities to get involved in research at the WHCC. Advances in the treatment of women’s mental health would not be possible without the invaluable assistance of the research participants. Please help us learn more about women’s mental health by volunteering to participate in a research study at the WHCC.

Involvement in any research study is completely voluntary, and choosing not to participate will in no way affect your treatment as a patient in the clinic. All research studies at the WHCC have been approved by the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (HIREB). Eligibility for participation in these studies is determined by clinical and research staff following your initial screening.

If you are interested in finding out more about participating in research studies at WHCC, or if you want more information on any of the following studies, please contact our research coordinator, Ruth Chau at 905-522-1155 ext. 39178 or


Studies Related to Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Sleep, Biological Rhythm and Symptoms of Depression
Research suggests that daily biological rhythm (such as sleep and activity patterns) and the immune system play a large role in the onset and severity of depressive symptoms. In this study we are examining how these daily rhythms interact with the immune system and how these systems relate to symptoms of depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period. 

The Impact of Maternal Health During Pregnancy and Infant Behaviour at 3 Months of Age
Research suggests that a woman’s physical health during pregnancy can affect the development of her infant. In this part of our study, we seek to examine the link between mom’s physical health during pregnancy and her infant’s behaviours at 3 months. Participants will be compensated for their time.

The Genetics and Distinct Brain Activation Patterns in Women with Perinatal Onset of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Research suggests that during reproductive events such as the perinatal period, onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or worsening of current symptoms can occur. In this study, we want to examine the interaction of a common gene and environment interaction that may confer risk. In addition, we are comparing differences in brain activation patterns in postpartum women with and without mood/obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

Perinatal Depression and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease in Later Life
Research suggests that depression may be a significant risk factor for the development of heart disease in later life. Since pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for the development of depression, this study will follow women from their third trimester of pregnancy until 3 months post-partum. Heart disease risk will be identified by assessing heart rate and by performing a non-invasive ultrasound of the carotid arteries. Compensation will be provided for completion.

Circadian Rhythm Changes from Pregnancy into the Postpartum Period
Circadian rhythm refers to the internal biological clock that drives many of our bodily functions. Research has shown that changes in circadian rhythm are associated with negative changes in mood. This part of our study is examining whether circadian rhythms change between pregnancy and the postpartum period and whether these changes are related to shifts in mood.

Studies Related to the Menstrual Cycle

Brain Correlates of Emotion Regulation in Bipolar Women with Premenstrual Exacerbation
There is evidence that women with bipolar disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) have a worse course of their bipolar illness in which they may suffer from more frequent and severe episodes, and may require hospitalization more frequently than bipolar women without PMDD. Brain activation patterns as well as hormone levels between women with bipolar disorder and PMDD will be compared. Compensation provided upon study completion.

Studies Related to the Menopausal Transition

The Effects of Estrogen on Mood and Vasomotor Symptoms During the Menopausal Transition
Research suggests that estrogen treatment may alleviate most of the mood and vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause. In this part of our study we are examining the role of neurotransmitters in estrogen treatment, as the exact mechanisms by which estrogen treatment improves mood and regulates body temperature are still unknown. This study involves 3 or more visits to our clinic. Participants will be compensated for their time and parking.

Desvenlafaxine succinate and Brain Functioning in Midlife Major Depressive Disorder Patients
Depressive symptoms are more likely to occur in men and women as they approach middle-age. This period of time is also associated with increased risk in women for some menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. In this study we are investigating the efficacy of an antidepressant called Desvenlafaxine in the treatment of men and women (age 40-60 years) with depression, and examining changes in the brain activation using neuro-imaging scans. We will examine whether these changes are related to menopause-related symptoms and quality of life among depressed women.

Other Studies

Cortical Myelin Content Mapping in Bipolar Disorder
White matter abnormalities are increasingly implicated in the pathophysiology of Bipolar Disorder. They have been described in individuals with the disorder, and also in individuals who are at risk for developing Bipolar Disorder. In this study, we hope to map cortical myelin content and investigate potential peripheral biological correlates.

Integrated Biological Markers for the Prediction of Treatment Response in Depression
The purpose of the study is to learn about ‘biomarkers’ (biological features such as proteins, genes, and brain images) and how they can help predict treatment outcomes in people with depression. Treatment will be provided with standard Health Canada approved antidepressants over 16 weeks, and changes in brain activation will be examined across the treatment period. Compensation will be provided for time and travel expenses.




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