Women’s Brain Initiative

Tackling the gap in knowledge about sex differences and brain health


We are pleased to announce the recipients of our 2020 Women’s Brain Initiative Fellowship awards:  Jessica Lipschitz, PhD (Dept of Psychiatry) and Rajae Talbi, PhD (Division of Endocrinology). See the announcement for further details.

There are many differences between female and male brains, and these 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.

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 disease 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. Our activities include a portfolio of core projects, research fellowships, and pilot funding awards, along with a regular seminar series and an annual symposium.

Some 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?
  • 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 can we translate our emerging understanding of these issues to design and test treatments for brain disorders?

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

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are unable to hold our 2020 fall symposium as planned.  We continue to host individual guest speakers via zoom. We look forward to resuming in-person events as soon as circumstances permit.

Targeted Core Research Portfolio — sex differences and the brain

The Women’s Brain Initiative includes a portfolio of multi-year research efforts led by senior Brigham physicians and investigators. Topics of investigation include post-menopausal depressionweight gain, and memoryendocrine disrupters, Parkinson’s & female resilience.

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

The Women’s Brain Initiative is encouraging a growing community of 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 Program.

Women’s Brain Initiative Seminar Series

The Women’s Brain Initiative Seminar Series brings guest speakers to Brigham, providing opportunities for our community to learn about key developments elsewhere and for our young researchers to meet with leaders in the field. These seminars are open to all and are followed by a reception.  We welcome attendance from across the Longwood and Harvard communities, and beyond.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our 2020 seminar series is being held via zoom.

Contact Us

We welcome questions and suggestions for future speakers or events.

Kate Burdick, PhD

Faculty Director


Charles Jennings, PhD

Executive Director


Aaron Brown

Administrative Assistant