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Yale’s Frick honored for research on hormones and memory


New Haven, Conn. — Karyn Frick, associate professor of behavioral neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Yale, has been awarded the third annual Society for Women’s Health Research Medtronic Prize for Scientific Contributions to Women’s Health for her research on the effect of hormones on learning and memory.

Frick received $75,000 from the society at its annual awards banquet on April 28.

Frick’s lab is studying how the hormones estrogen and progesterone influence the brain’s ability to learn and remember. Scientists know that, both before and after birth, these hormones help to keep cells in women’s brains healthy, and that after puberty, hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle influence how women think, feel, and remember. Researchers believe that at menopause, the loss of hormones significantly increases a woman’s risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Frick has demonstrated that hormone loss in middle age causes premature memory decline in female mice relative to males. She has also studied whether hormone treatment in middle-aged and older female mice can improve memory. She has discovered a molecule in the brain that is necessary for estrogen to improve memory, and her lab is studying whether this molecule also works with estrogen to reduce memory loss in aging females. Ultimately, scientists such as Frick hope to develop drugs that prevent memory loss in menopausal women but do not produce the negative side effects of current hormone therapies.

“The Society for Women’s Health Research is the nation’s leading organization devoted to raising awareness of women’s health issues and women’s health research, so their recognition of the achievements of mid-career women scientists like myself is truly gratifying,” Frick said.

Frick also holds appointments in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program and the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Yale. She earned her doctorate degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1996 and has been a professor in the psychology department at Yale since 2000.


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