Women’s Brain Initiative

Tackling the gap in knowledge about women and brain conditions…finally!


There are many differences between female and male brains. Such differences can have important implications for brain health. For example, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, headaches, anxiety, eating disorders and obesity affect more women than men. We also know that women are at reduced risk for Parkinson’s, autism, and addictive behaviors, to name a few. The reasons for these critical sex biases are unknown.


That’s why we’ve launched the Women’s Brain Initiative!


The Women’s Brain Initiative represents a major commitment across the Brigham to understand how sex differences affect the brain.  We aim to advance our understanding of how sex may affect risk, progression and treatment response, as well as the fundamental biological mechanisms that lead to sex differences in neurologic and psychiatric disorders. The Program is also focused on how female-specific factors and life transitions may influence brain health.


The Women’s Brain Initiative is attracting critical attention, resources and talented scientists to the field of women’s brain health. We are well on our way to becoming an internationally recognized leader in this long ignored and critical field.


A few examples of the Program’s areas of interest include:


  • What are the underlying biological mechanisms that cause women and men to have different levels of risk for certain neurological conditions?
  • Why are more women than men diagnosed with MS, Alzheimer’s, obesity, eating disorders, depression— and more?
  • Why and how do pregnancy, postpartum, menopause and post-menopause influence women’s neurological and psychiatric health?
  • How do stress, hormonal changes and immunological response affect women’s brain health—including disease progression?
  • How shall we readily translate our emerging understanding of these issues to design and test treatments aimed at girls and women?

The Women’s Brain Initiative has made significant progress since its fall 2017 launch, including:


  • Annual Women’s Brain Initiative Symposiums

The Women’s Brain Initiative has held two Symposiums:

2019 WBI Symposium

2018 WBI Symposium

  • Targeted Core Research Portfolio — uniquely about sex differences and the brain 

The Women’s Brain Initiative entails a growing portfolio of multi-year research efforts led by senior Brigham physicians and investigators. For example— we’ve launched research programs targeting post-menopausal depressionweight gain and memory issues, endocrine disrupters, Parkinson’s & the female protective advantage— and more to come!

  • Attracting young investigators to field of women’s brain health

The Women’s Brain Initiative is already encouraging a growing community of our most promising young investigators and physicians to embark on a career in women’s brain health. See the listing of awardees for the WBI Pilot Projects Program and the WBI Research Fellowship ProgramCongratulations to the awardees!

  • Women’s Brain Initiative Seminar Series

The Women’s Brain Initiative Seminar Series is well underway. See link below to the upcoming 2020 Seminar Series schedule. A reception will follow each seminar. We encourage attendance from across the Longwood and Harvard communities, and beyond!

For more information about the Women’s Brain Initiative, please contact:


Patti A. Stoll

Director, Women’s Brain Initiative