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The UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders offers research programs to address and explore the needs of women in different stages of menopause.




The UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders wants to learn more about mood and brain function during the menopause transition. During this big life change, many women feel and behave differently because of the changes that are happening inside their bodies. We want to find ways to help women feel better during this time. We also want to help them understand the reasons for the change in emotions and different thoughts they might be having. This research study will look at a patch that is already FDA approved for improving bone density and managing hot flashes (called Climara) to see if it can also improve thoughts, feelings, and the ability to focus in women who are going through this change.

This study involves 6 visits, up to 4 of these can be done virtually on Zoom and 2 of these will be done at UNC. We will ask you to take a form of estrogen for three weeks, sit for 2 scans of your brain, and speak regularly with our study team about your thoughts and feelings. Before starting any medication, you would answer questions about your mood and health, and receive a physical exam.

You may be eligible to participate in this study if you are between the ages 44-55, have skipped at least two periods in the past year, but you’ve still had a period in the last year, and are feeling less interested in your usual activities.

Study Screening Form:

Contact Information:

PI: Dr. Gabriel Dichter

Study Coordinator: Kate Gibson ( or 919-966-5243


Women’s Irritability, Stress, and Estrogen (WISE) Study

Help us learn about the role of estrogen on mood during the menopause transition!

Who is eligible?

Women ages 45-55 who are medically healthy in the menopause transition (having irregular or skipped periods) and are currently experiencing mood changes, particularly irritability.

Find out if you are eligible!

What is the study about?

Women in the menopause transition (meaning women who have irregular or skipped menstrual periods but have not gone a full year without a menstrual period) are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety not only compared with men but also compared with women who still have regular menstrual periods (premenopausal women) and women who have not had a menstrual period in more than one year (postmenopausal women). The menopause transition is a time of extreme changes in sex hormone levels. One of the main female sex hormones is estrogen. Estrogen levels can change greatly from one day to the next during the menopause transition. In other research, changes in sex hormone levels have been shown to contribute to negative mood in women with severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and in women with postpartum depression. Estrogen has also been shown to influence brain areas that are important in the emergence of mood symptoms, including irritability. Although the causes of depression during the menopause transition are unknown, severe life stress close in time to the menopause transition predicts the onset of depression.

The purpose of this research study is to determine if changes in estrogen (specifically a urinary metabolite of estrogen, E1G) during the menopause transition are related to irritability symptoms and brain correlates of irritability. We will also test whether administering estrogen for three weeks via a skin patch, will decrease irritability symptoms and beneficially modify brain activity associated with irritability symptoms.

What does participation involve?

Baseline Hormone, Mood and Neurophysiological Testing (4 weeks):

  • Clinical interview and enrollment session (interview and questionnaires on mood, stress, and personal medical and psychiatric history, and menopausal symptoms
  • Daily and weekly mood assessments
  • Every-other-day hormone collections (urine)
  • Neurophysiological testing session: In-person laboratory session involving non-invasive measurement of brain activity (EEG) during a computer task

Condition 1: Estradiol or Placebo Patch (3 weeks):

  • Daily and weekly mood assessments
  • Neurophysiological testing session

Washout Phase – no patches (3 weeks):

  • Daily and weekly mood assessments

Condition 2: Estradiol or Placebo Patch (3 weeks):

  • Daily and weekly mood assessments
  • Neurophysiological testing session

End of Study and Follow-up (3 weeks):

  • 10 days of progesterone to protect your uterine lining.
  • Daily and weekly mood assessments


Participants have the chance to earn up to $650 for completing the entire research study.

Contact Us, or Learn More


Phone: (919) 972-7440