FemiLab - Women's brain health

Principal Investigator:  Ann-Marie G. de Lange


Project summary

Women have higher prevalence of autoimmune diseases, and are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease relative to men. As women's health is historically understudied, little is known about mechanisms underlying epidemiological sex differences in disease, and how factors such as pregnancy and hormone exposure influence women's brain health across the lifespan. 

FemiLab is an international, cross-disciplinary research initiative that aims to increase the knowledge about women's life phases including pregnancy and menopause, and how biological processes related to these events influence brain ageing later in life. To investigate this, we apply computational tools to neuroimaging, clinical, genetic, and biological data.



In addition to leveraging data from population-based cohorts such as UK Biobank and CoLaus, FemiLab benefits from collaboration with the ERC-funded project BRAINMINT - Brains and Minds in Transition (PI Prof. Westlye), which focuses on how increased brain plasticity during adolescence and pregnancy involves risk for common mental disorders including postpartum depression. By combining data from several high-quality datasets, we aim to identify groups of women who are vulnerable to accelerated brain ageing or dementia, as well as pregnancy-related mental health problems. 

Contact information

Key publications

Voldsbekk, I, Barth, C, Maximov, I. I, Kaufmann, K., Beck, Genevive Richard, Torgeir Moberget, Lars T. Westlye, and Ann‐Marie G. de Lange. (2021) A history of previous childbirths is linked to women's white matter brain age in midlife and older age. Human Brain Mapping 

de Lange, A-M.G., Jacobs, E. G., & Galea, L. (2021) Editorial: The scientific body of knowledge: Whose body does it serve? A spotlight on women’s brain health. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology

Barth, C. & de Lange, A-M.G. (2020) Towards an understanding of women's brain aging: the immunology of pregnancy and menopause. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 

de Lange, A-M.G.,  Barth, C., Kaufmann, T., Anatürk, Suri, S., M., Ebmeier, K. P., & Westlye, L. T. (2020) The maternal brain: region-specific patterns of brain aging are traceable decades after childbirth. Human Brain Mapping

de Lange, A-M.G., Kaufmann, T., van de Meer, D., Maglanoc, L., Alnæs, D., Moberget, T., Douaud, G., Andreassen, O.A., & Westlye, L.T. (2019) Population-based neuroimaging reveals traces of childbirth in the maternal brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

de Lange A-M.G., Barth, C., Kaufmann. Maximov, I., van der Meer, D., T., Agartz, I., & Westlye, L. T. (2020) Women's brain aging: effects of sex-hormone exposure, pregnancies, and genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. Human Brain Mapping


International collaborators

Prof. Lars T. Westlye, Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research, University of Oslo
Prof. Klaus P. Ebmeier, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford
Prof. Tobias Kaufmann, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen
Dr. Claudia Barth, Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research, University of Oslo
Prof. Emily G. Jacobs, Neuroscience Research Institute, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California Santa Barbara
Prof. Liisa A. M. Galea, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
Prof. James H. Cole, Centre for Medical Image Computing, Department of Computer Science, University College London


2021 - 2024 | Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione, grant n 31904

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