Hormones on the brain – Lauren Drogos joins Real Scientists!

Lauren Drogos Postdoc (5)This week we’re happy to welcome Lauren Drogos to Real Scientists! Lauren is an Alberta Innovates Health Solutions Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Calgary and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. Her research across the past decade has focused on the effects of steroid hormones on cognition and mood, with a focus on women’s mental health. Lauren usually tweets as @LDrogosPhD, not just about science but also about fika, food, crafts, and Tiny Cat.

I always had an interest in science, I was your typical nerdy kid who loved dinosaurs, and documentaries on animals. However, through my high school years I had a strong interest in politics and government. I hoped to combine the two and become an intellectual properties lawyer. Seeing as I am here – you can guess that plan went sideways! I don’t tell this story much, BUT… I got into science in college as a complete accident. I started as a Pre-Law with a declared major in psychology (Psych grads tend to do best on the LSAT). One day while registering (on paper) I transposed numbers on the registration call number for the course “Cognitive Psychology”. A few weeks later when my next semester course schedule came back to me in the mail, I was registered for a course called “Comparative Psychology”. As you can imagine, I was confused and schlepped down to my course advisor’s office to change courses. However, by this time registration for Cognitive Psychology was completely booked up. OH, HOW GLAD I AM NOW THAT IT WAS!!! My advisor suggested I stick with the class and petition for a change once the semester started, if I hated it. I went to the first week of class, and I was hooked. To the point that, I wound up working in the Professor’s lab for the next 2.5 years looking at how sex steroid hormones influenced dendrites and spines in animals as they aged. I went on to “backtrack” in my degree and took basic science courses, but I never bothered to remove the Pre-Law from my degree. In the end, I graduated with a B.S. with distinction (Pre-Law).

I REALLY love endocrinology. The feed forward and feedback loops of hormones are such a beautiful dance. Cognitive aging, started out as another way to look at how hormones influence the brain; however as my life went on both of my grandmothers had dementia. Now I work to keep other families and women from having to suffer through a disease that robs you of your memories.    I wear many different hats in lab, but I like to refer to myself as a psychoneuroendocrinologist. This means I study how hormones effect the brain, cognition and mood.

My research focuses on how the relationship between hormones, physiology and the brain produce changes in cognition in humans. I have three main areas of research within this. The first area is researching how fluctuations in endogenous (naturally produced) and exogenous (pills/creams/patches) hormones and neuropeptides can influence memory, attention and verbal abilities. My second research focus is on how menopausal symptoms, specifically hot flashes and sleep disturbances, may underlie changes in memory and other mental abilities typically seen during the menopausal transition. The last area I research is investigating the effects of protective factors (like physical activity) on cognition and hormones in older adults. In addition, I am investigating how fluctuations in endogenous hormones may relate to cognitive and brain health using standardized neuropsychological testing and neuroimaging.

The numbers of people with dementia could triple by the year 2050. We need effective ways to prevent and treat dementia before then!

In my spare time I run a new blog project that shares the experiences and stories of women working in a STEM field. Go check it out here. I am a bit of a homebody!  I love crafting, like crochet and cross stitch. I am currently learning how to knit as well. When I have time, I love reading science fiction books. I also absolutely love to bake and cook (in that order). My signature baked good is a chocolate cake with Italian buttercreme. Baking reminds me of being in lab, you get to play with the reactants – but this time you get to lick your product!

All good days start with coffee! Beyond that necessity, I am pretty laid back! As long as my day contains good coffee, good food, time to craft/read, and a cute animal to play with… it has been a good day.

 

Please welcome Lauren to Real Scientists!

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