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wmhrp header ArchivedNews

An article written by Leah Rubin, PhD on “Elevated stress is associated with prefrontal cortex dysfunction during a verbal memory task in women with HIV” was published in the Journal of Neurovirology (PMID: 27094924).

Dr. Pauline Maki is featured in a documentary on PBS entitled “Hot Flash Havoc.” The documentary “sets the record straight about the U.S. government sanctioned Women's Health Initiative study released in 2002, which misrepresented that hormone replacement therapy — used by millions of women to treat the symptoms of menopause — could actually increase the risk of heart attacks and cancer.”

WMHRP graduate Dr. Erin Sundermann’s research on “Better verbal memory in women than men in MCI despite similar levels of hippocampal atrophy” was published in Neurology (PMID: 26984945). The findings of the study have implications for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in women and have garnered significant media coverage.

Dr. Leah Rubin writes about the emerging Zika crisis for the International Society for NeuroVirology’s blog.

An article written by Jessica Fogel, MS on “Sex differences in the subjective effects of oral Δ9-THC in cannabis users” was published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior (PMID: 26780348).

Dr. Pauline Maki completed her term as the President of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Revisit the Editorial published in Menopause announcing her election to the position.

Dr. Leah Rubin is interviewed about her research for “Blogging NeuroVirology”, a publication of the International Society for NeuroVirology


wmhrp subcat Psychosis

One of the primary focuses of Dr. Leah Rubin’s program of research is to better understand sex differences in psychosis through the exploration of hormonal contributions to this mental illness. This work is important given that the course of schizophrenia is more benign in women than in men and thus, sex differences in neuroendocrine, genetic and/or epigenetics factors may contribute to sex differences in clinical presentation and cognitive abilities. The goal of the research is to identify sex-specific, neurohormonal treatments for mental illness and to improve the lives of individuals with severe mental illness.

To date, Dr. Rubin’s work has yielded novel and important findings of sex differences in the impact of antipsychotic treatment on sexually dimorphic cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. The primary finding was that women and men differed in the cognitive benefits they derived from antipsychotic treatment. Other findings from her work are that high levels of peripheral oxytocin are protective across a broad range of clinical symptoms and emotion perception in women but not men with schizophrenia.


Oxytocin Alterations in Schizophrenia: Plasma levels and gene methylation in patients and relatives
PI: Leah Rubin, PhD
The goal of this project was to investigate endogenous oxytocin and oxytocin receptor epigenetics in patients with schizophrenia, relatives and controls. This study was funded by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation from 2013-2015.


The Role of Endogenous Neurohormones in Modulating Clinical Symptoms, Social/Emotional and Cognitive Functioning in Schizophrenia
BIRCWH Scholar: Leah Rubin, PhD
This mentored award focused on understanding how two sexually dimorphic neurohormones – oxytocin and vasopressin – may contribute to sex differences in schizophrenia. Dr. Rubin received this award in 2010. Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) is a women’s health research career development program at UIC. It is funded by a 10-year K12 institutional training grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (K12 HD055892-10).


Effects of Estrogen on Cognition in Schizophrenia
PI: Leah Rubin, PhD
The goal of this mentored award was to identify neuroendocrine mechanisms that contribute to variations in cognitive function in schizophrenia. Specifically, Dr. Rubin aimed to characterize how individual variation in estrogen levels affected cognitive abilities that showed a sex difference. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 2007-2009 (F31 MH082480).


wmhrp subcat HIV

Our research with HIV+ women has been aimed at understanding how different female-specific risk factors contribute to their cognitive and mental health. Studying HIV+ women is particularly important given that these women may be at greater risk for cognitive deficits/declines due to issues of underserved communities including poverty, low literacy levels, low educational attainment, substance abuse, mental health issues. In our Neurology publication (Maki, Rubin, et al. 2014), we demonstrated that HIV-infected women show a prominent deficit in verbal learning and memory and attention compared to at-risk HIV-uninfected (HIV-) women. Across multiple studies we have identified certain factors that are differentially associated with verbal learning and memory in HIV-infected compared to HIV-uninfected women including crack/cocaine use, menopausal anxiety, insulin resistance, and perceived stress. We have also shown that post-traumatic stress was associated with worse scores on tests of verbal learning, memory, and psychomotor speed, and our structural and functional imaging studies suggest that the prefrontal cortex plays a critical role in stress-related memory impairments in HIV+ women.


Mental Health, Glucocorticoid Receptor Biology, and Cognition in HIV-Infected Women
PI: Leah Rubin, PhD, MPH
Using data from the WIHS, this project will examine the potential role of glucorticoid receptor biology as a contributor to psychological risk factors and cognitive function in HIV positive women, as compared to HIV negative women.


Sex Differences in Cognitive Response to a Hydrocortisone Challenge in HIV
PI: Leah Rubin, PhD, MPH
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD and K. Luan Phan, MD
This pharmacologic challenge explores the impact of hydrocortisone, a glucocorticoid, on cognition and immune response in HIV+ men and women. This study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH - R21 MH099978).


Effects of Stress and Stress Hormones on Cognition in HIV-infected Women
PI: Leah Rubin, PhD
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD and Judith Cook, PhD
The goal of this mentored award is to develop a program of research that addresses the role of stress and stress hormones on cognitive dysfunction among HIV+ women. This study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH - K01 MH098798).


Cognitive Neuropsychology of HIV and Drug Abuse
PI: Eileen Martin, PhD (Rush University)
Co-I and Pilot Study PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
Co-I: Leah Rubin, PhD, MPH
This is an ongoing program of theory driven research to investigate the unique and additive effects of HIV and substance dependence on selected neurocognitive functions with neuroanatomical and functional significance for neuroAIDS research. Dr. Maki is the PI of an exploratory pilot study that investigates the effects of menstrual cycle fluctuations on HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment in cocaine users. This study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA - R01 DA012828).


Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), Chicago Consortium
PI: Mardge Cohen, MD
Subcontract PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
The WIHS is a multi-site prospective epidemiology cohort study of women who either are infected with HIV or are at increased risk for acquiring HIV infection. The Chicago Consortium is a clinical research site. As a past head of the Neurocognitive Working Group (NCWG) of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), Dr. Pauline Maki directed the implementation of the largest longitudinal study of cognitive function in HIV-infected women and HIV-uninfected controls. Dr. Leah Rubin has worked to develop and apply sophisticated statistical approaches to elucidate the association between HIV status and cognition in women as well as identify risk factors for cognitive difficulties. These risk factors have including menopause, drug abuse, COMT, liver function, insulin resistance, C-C chemokine receptor type 2 (CCR2) on monocyte subsets, and age-related glucocorticoid resistance. The WIHS is primarily funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID - U01 AI034993).

Other WMHRP studies led by Dr. Maki within the WIHS cohort include:

  • Effects of Drug Use on White Matter Integrity in HIV+ women
    The goal of this study was to examine the effects of recent crack cocaine use on brain structure in HIV+ women (2009-2012)
  • Effects of Drug Use on Hippocampal Function in HIV+ women
    The goal of this study was to examine the effects of recent crack cocaine use on hippocampal function during performance of a verbal memory test in HIV+ women (2009-2012).
  • Genetic Predictors of Cognition and Mood in HIV+ Women
    This subcontract analyzed the influence of four common genetic polymorphisms - ESR1, COMT, CYP1A1, and BDNF – in relation to memory function and depressive symptoms in HIV positive women (2007-2009).
  • Cognition, Brain Function, and Affect in Midlife HIV+ Women: The Influence of Menopause
    This subcontract was for a pilot cross-sectional substudy to the Women’s Interagency HIV Study and aimed to better understand how age and menopause influence performance on cognitive tests, affect, and fMRI measures of brain function in midlife women with HIV (2004-2005).


Cognitive Neuropsychology of HIV and Drug Abuse - Potential Age Effects
PI: Eileen Martin, PhD (Rush University)
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD and Leah Rubin, PhD
This goal of this administrative supplement is to investigate effects of HIV serostatus on memory and executive function among a sample of older HIV+ and HIV- cocaine dependent women. This study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA - R01 DA012828-14S1).


Brain Aging in HIV-infected Women: The Role of Reproductive Aging and Cardiovascular Risk Factors
PI: Minjie Wu, PhD
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD
This Creative and Novel Ideas in HIV Research (CNIHR) grant aims to examine the effects of chronological aging, reproductive aging (i.e., menopause), and subclinical vascular risk factors on brain integrity in midlife HIV-infected women, compared to HIV-uninfected women. This study is jointly funded by the NIH, the NIH-supported Centers for Aids Research (CFAR) and the International AIDS Society (IAS).


Impact of Cocaine on Brain Neurochemistry, Functional Connectivity and Cognition in HIV
PI: Shaolin Yang, PhD
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD
The overall aim of this study is to investigate the impact of cocaine abuse on brain neurochemistry, functional connectivity, and cognition in HIV+ individuals. The general goal is to characterize the effects of cocaine abuse on brain neurochemistry, as well as functional connectivity in neural circuitry involved in reward/cognition in HIV+ individuals. This study is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA - R21 AG048176).


Effects of Drug Use on Prefrontal Cortex Function in HIV+ Women
PI: Vanessa Meyer, PhD
This training grant sought to investigate the effects of HIV and recent illicit drug use on cognitive function in women. The general aim of the study was to better understand the interactive effects of HIV and recent crack cocaine use on cognitive function. This study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) from 2010-2012 (F31 DA028573).


Genetic Predictors of Cognition in HIV+ Women
PI: Erin Sundermann, PhD
This training grant sought to identify genetic predictors of cognitive performance and brain dysfunction in HIV. The general aim of the study was to characterize the effect of a common polymorphism of the catechol- O-methyl transferase (COMT) gene, Val158Met, on cognition and brain function in midlife women with HIV. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 2008-2011 (F31 MH083537).

Pregnancy & Postpartum

wmhrp subcat Pregnancy

The Women’s Mental Health Research Program has worked collaboratively with researchers and clinicians in OB/GYN to increase provider and systems capacity to detect, diagnose and treat perinatal anxiety and depressive disorders in our patients. The majority of women who receive perinatal care at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System are low-income minorities and these women have significantly higher rates of perinatal depression compared to the rest of the population (Bennett et al., 2004). Our previous longitudinal work with pregnant women at UIC found that 39% of the women had depression at preconception, 36% during pregnancy, and 33% in the postpartum period (Rubin et al., 2011). The intended outcome of our perinatal mental health research is to increase awareness, reduce stigma and connect women to the care they need.


A Feasibility Study of an Intervention to Improve Mother-Infant Synchrony and Emotion Regulation, and the Contributing Role of Oxytocin
PI: Aleeca Bell, PhD, RN, CNM
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD and Leah Rubin, PhD
The primary aim of this pilot study is to demonstrate feasibility of recruitment and retention of women with psychosocial adversities into an intervention study designed to enhance mother-infant synchrony through the use of an auditory, tactile, visual, and vestibular intervention (ATVV). The second goal of this study is to demonstrate intervention fidelity of mothers applying the ATVV twice-daily with their baby for 4-weeks. This study is funded by the UIC College of Nursing, Internal Research Support Program.


Healthy Behaviors in Women - Illinois MotherCare Project
PI: Vesna Pirec, MD, PhD
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD
The goal of this project was to develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate a model for integration of mental health and healthy eating into perinatal care clinic settings. Among the health issues linked closely with depression and posing substantial risks to women and their offspring, the most central is disordered eating. The project proposed to (1) develop a self-care tool and guided self-care process for women with perinatal depression and/or eating problems; (2) incorporate this self-care tool and process, along with evidence-based treatments, into a stepped-care disease management model that coordinates mental health care with prenatal care. This study was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) from 2009-2012 (H59MC09957).


InterAgency Agreement with HFS
PI: Vesna Pirec, MD, PhD
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD
The goal of this grant was to: 1) Deliver workshops on screening, assessment, and treatment of perinatal mental health issues across Illinois; 2) Maintain a national consultation service for providers with questions of perinatal mental health, and; 3) Create a perinatal mental health protocol, medication chart and provider tool kit. This study was funded by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services from 2011-2012.

Bennett, H.A., et al., Prevalence of depression during pregnancy: systematic review. Obstet Gynecol, 2004. 103(4): p. 698-709.
Rubin, L.H., et al., Perinatal depressive symptoms in HIV-infected versus HIV-uninfected women: a prospective study from preconception to postpartum. J Womens Health (Larchmt), 2011. 20(9): p. 1287-95.


wmhrp subcat Menopause

For the past 20 years, Dr. Pauline Maki has led a program of NIH-funded research on cognition and brain function in aging women. This program examines the role of menopause, vasomotor symptoms (VMS), and hormonal fluctuations on neuropsychological test performance and functional and structural neuroimaging outcomes.

In the past decade, our understanding of the role of menopause stage and menopausal symptoms on cognitive function has greatly expanded. There is now increasing evidence from large-scale prospective studies that women both report increased memory complaints and perform worse on memory tests during the menopausal transition. Dr. Maki’s work demonstrates a significant relationship between subjective memory complaints and objective memory declines, and also shows considerable individual differences in this relationship, with some women reporting few memory complaints and performing well on memory tests, and others having significant complaints and significant impairment. Dr. Maki’s work has contributed to the understanding of the factors underlying these changes in memory. Although there is strong evidence that the vasomotor symptoms (VMS) women report are unrelated to memory performance, Dr. Maki and collaborators discovered that physiologic VMS, as measured with ambulatory skin conductance monitors, bear a strong relationship with memory performance. Women under-report physiological hot flashes by about 45%, so measuring physiologic VMS with monitors appears to be critical in unmasking the relationship between VMS and memory.


The Science of Thermoregulation and Vasomotor Symptoms: Possible New Targets for Treatment
PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
The purpose of this 2-day conference was to bring together diverse key researchers and menopause clinicians to review recent scientific advances in our understanding of 1) the mechanisms underlying hot flashes and night sweats; 2) the efficacy of nonhormonal treatments for these symptoms. This study was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) from 2014-2016 (R13 AG048700-01).


Effects of Estradiol and Phytoestrogens on Stress Responsivity
PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
This study was a randomized, placebo-controlled trial comparing estradiol and soy supplements to placebo for the treatment of daily anxiety, stress responsivity, objective hot flashes, and cognition in perimenopausal women. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 2009-2015 (R01 MH083782).


Botanical Menopausal Therapies Mechanisms of CNS Action
PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
This Career Award grant examined the mechanisms by which phytoestrogens and botanical therapies for menopausal symptoms affect CNS function. This study was funded by the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) from 2004-2009 (K01 AT002321).


Effects of Botanicals on Cognition in Midlife Women
PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
The goal of this study was to compare the effects of standard hormone therapy, Trifolium pratense and Cimicifuga racemosa on brain function in midlife women. This study was funded by the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) from 2004-2006 (R21 AT001868).


The Center for Dietary Supplemental Research - Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women’s Health
PI: Norman Farnsworth, PhD
Co-I: Pauline Maki, PhD
The initial efforts of this study were to investigate the clinical safety and efficacy of botanicals used to treat women's health with particular emphasis on therapies for menopause. Additional studies addressed mechanisms of action, identification of active compounds, and characterization of metabolism, bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of active species contained in these botanicals.This study was funded by the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) from 1999-2004 (P50 AT000155).


Effects of Sex Steroid Hormones on Cognition and Brain Function
PI: Pauline Maki, PhD
The goal of this project was to gain insight into the effects of sex steroid hormones on cognitive function involving three primary lines of research: 1) sex differences in cognitive function; 2) changes in cognition in relation to natural fluctuations in endogenous hormones; and 3) changes in cognition associated with exogenous hormone intervention. This study was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) from 2001-2002 (Z01 AG000192-02).



  1. Ambulatory Clinic:
    Neuropsychiatric Insitute
    912 S. Wood Steet, Chicago, IL 60612
  2. UIC Hospital
    1740 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60612
  3. Institute for Juvenile Research
    1747 W. Roosevelt Rd, Chicago, IL 60608
  4. Psychiatric Institute
    1601 W. Taylor St.Chicago, IL 60612

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