Jennifer Garrison, PhD
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
The female reproductive system ages precociously – females rapidly lose their reproductive capacity by midlife while somatic tissues continue to function normally. Beyond reproduction, the end of fertility sets off a cascade of negative health effects in women’s bodies that impact bone, cognitive, cardiovascular and immune function. During the earliest stages of reproductive decline, prior to any changes in ovarian cyclicity and circulating estrogen, changes in the brain play an important role in the initiation of reproductive senescence. We think that menopause originates from signals in the brain. Our goal is to elucidate the complex interactions between the ovary and brain during middle-age and identify the neuronal factors that lead to the onset of reproductive decline in females in order to develop strategies to prevent or delay ovarian aging. Understanding mammalian limits to female reproductive capacity may provide important clues about aging in other tissues.