2019

Pubertal Hormones and Brain Structure: Exploring the Value of Hair Assays

Vijayakumar, Nandita and Shirtcliff, Elizabeth and Byrne, Michelle L and Mills, Kathryn L. and Cheng, Theresa W and Mobasser, Arian and Flannery, Jessica and Nelson, Benjamin W and Flournoy, John Coleman and Wang, Wen and Allen, Nicholas B. and Pfeifer, Jennifer H

10.31234/osf.io/btf4y

Neuroimaging research has highlighted the role of puberty in structural brain development in humans, but studies investigating the mechanistic role of hormones in this association have produced inconsistent findings. Limitations of current approaches to hormonal assessments have long been recognized, as basal hormone levels are susceptible to momentary influences (in particular, circadian rhythmicity and menstrual cyclicity). However, emerging research suggests that a novel method of assaying pubertal hormone concentrations in hair may overcome some of these issues by capturing hormonal exposure across a longer period of time. This study is the first to compare associations between hormone concentrations measured via hair and saliva with brain structure in a sample of early adolescent females (N = 112, 10-13 years of age). Estradiol, testosterone, and DHEA concentrations were assayed from i) 5cm hair samples collected proximal to the scalp, reflecting approximately 5 months of hormonal exposure, and ii) repeated weekly saliva samples collected over the course of one month. Participants also underwent structural MRI scans, and estimates of cortical thickness and subcortical volume were obtained. Findings revealed that pubertal hormones in saliva samples exhibited strongest associations with parieto-occipital cortices. Comparatively, hair hormone concentrations exhibited stronger negative associations with cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortical thickness, which may reflect unique developmental processes that occur across longer periods of hormonal exposure. However, controlling for pubertal stage removed much of the cortical associations with hormones in saliva, and resulted in minimal change in cortical associations with hormones in hair. Thus hormone concentrations in hair may reflect biological processes not captured by self-reported pubertal stage that influence brain development. Further research is needed to improve our understanding of these potentially unique neurodevelopmental processes captured by saliva and hair hormone concentrations.

Cite this paper:

@techreport{vijayakumarPubertalHormonesBrain2019,
  title = {Pubertal Hormones and Brain Structure: {{Exploring}} the Value of Hair Assays},
  shorttitle = {Pubertal Hormones and Brain Structure},
  author = {Vijayakumar, Nandita and Shirtcliff, Elizabeth and Byrne, Michelle L and Mills, Kathryn L. and Cheng, Theresa W and Mobasser, Arian and Flannery, Jessica and Nelson, Benjamin W and Flournoy, John Coleman and Wang, Wen and Allen, Nicholas B. and Pfeifer, Jennifer H},
  year = {2019},
  month = jul,
  institution = {{PsyArXiv}},
  doi = {10.31234/osf.io/btf4y},
  type = {Preprint}
}