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Our research primarily focuses on behavioral endocrinology. In particular, we study biological transitions (e.g., puberty), viewing them as a time of risk for vulnerable individuals; we want to understand how this vulnerability may be related to the stress system. Our studies generally focus on how puberty and timing of puberty may be related to mental health (behavior problems, psychopathology) and physical health (bone density, reproductive health) outcomes. We use stress and reproductive hormones, along with their interactions with social, behavioral or environmental variables, as predictors of negative health outcomes.
Our current research focuses on two areas. First, we are examining the effects of smoking and depression / anxiety on reproductive and bone health in healthy pubertal-age girls. Studies using animal and adult human models suggest that both factors negatively affect bone density; since nearly half of a person’s bone is accrued during pubertal years, our findings could hold great value for pediatricians and patients alike. This study is the first to report the similar negative association in a healthy community group of adolescent girls.
The longitudinal study is in process but several important cross-sectional papers are in press. We have recently obtained additional grant funding from the NIH to examine potential mediation of the depression and bone health association through cytokines and measures of the stress system axis. No new girls are being enrolled in this study.
The second study focuses on endocrine changes and treatment of conduct problems in children and adolescents. We are examining salivary hormones and measures of puberty across treatment in a clinical trial conducted at the University of Pittsburgh. Data from a three-year follow-up are being examined and additional patient visits for up to five years follow a booster treatment. Manuscripts are in process.
Our past research at Cincinnati Children’s focused on the early timing of puberty (premature adrenarche, or PA) and its psychopathology. Children with PA have high-for-their-age concentrations of adrenal androgens. Our collaborative team reported in a 2008 paper that girls with PA are more likely to have more behavior problems and psychopathology than girls with on-time adrenarche. This study has special relevance, given the increasing number of girls experiencing early puberty. These findings may argue for more vigilance regarding behavioral and mental health issues in girls with PA. We are developing several new papers with this dataset. This study is no longer enrolling girls.
Depending on available funding, the Dorn lab typically has appointments for one or two postdoctoral fellows each year. Most often, the fellows have backgrounds in developmental or clinical psychology with a strong emphasis in methodology and statistics. Interested fellows may contact Lorah Dorn, PhD, for further information at email@example.com.
Learn more about our research examining the effects of moods and behaviors on bone health in adolescent girls.
Read about our investigation into the role premature adrenarche (PA) may play in mood and behavior shifts in girls.
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