Julie Dumas


  • Professor and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs 
  • Department of Psychiatry
  • Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit

Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2002
M.A. Cognitive Psychology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1999
B.A., Psychology
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA


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The brain is a major target for circulating gonadal steroids and the change in hormone levels after menopause is likely to have implications for cognitive functioning. A number of clinical and preclinical studies have linked gonadal steroids and cognition and it has been hypothesized that menopause has detrimental effects on cognition that are over and above the expected effects of normal aging. However, evidence for changes in cognition after menopause is equivocal. Some studies found that cognitive performance decreased in domains such as memory, attention, problem solving, and motor skills from pre-menopausal. Other studies have not found changes in cognition after menopause. With the relatively slow change in hormone levels during natural menopause, the brain may adapt to the changing hormonal environment. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this adaptation is important for understanding how menopause impairs cognition in some women.

The Dumas Lab combines psychopharmacology and functional imaging to study cognition before and after menopause. Recent projects have used cholinergic and dopaminergic medications in combination with estrogen treatment in postmenopausal women to understand how estrogen interacted with these neurotransmitter systems to affect cognition. We also use fMRI to compare neural activation during medication challenge to placebo.

Through our research studies we hope to further the understanding of neurotransmitter-based mechanisms involved in and responsible for successful adaptation of the brain to the hormonal change at menopause. Additionally, the results from these studies may inform the development of therapeutic strategies for prevention and intervention of cognitive decline.


McBride, C.A., Russom, Z., Achenbach, E., Bernstein, I.M., & Dumas, J.A. (2023). Cardiovascular profiles associated with white matter hyperintensities in healthy young women. Frontiers in Physiology, Jan 13;13:979899. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.979899. PMID: 36714317


Testo, A.A., McBride, C.A., Bernstein, I.M., & Dumas, J.A. (2022). Preeclampsia and its relationship to pathological brain aging. Frontiers in Physiology, 17 October 2022; 13:979547 https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2022.979547 PMID: 36324311


Conley, A.C., Albert, K.M., McDonald, B.C., Saykin, A.J., Dumas, J.A., & Newhouse, P.A. (2022). Estradiol treatment in young postmenopausal women with self-reported cognitive complaints: Effects in Cholinergic-mediated cognitive performance. Human Psychopharmacology, 37(5):e2838 doi: 10.1002/hup.2838. Epub 2022 Feb 24.PMID: 35212023


Senft Miller, A.*, Nop, O., Slavich, G.M. & Dumas, J.A. (2022). Lifetime stress exposure, cognition, and psychiatric well-being in women. Aging and Mental Health. 26(9):1765-1770, https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2021.1958144


Nop, O., Senft Miller, A.*, Culver, H.*, Makarewicz, J., & Dumas, J.A. (2021).  Nicotine and cognition in cognitively normal older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 13, Doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2021.640674


Dumas, J.A., Makarewicz, J.A., Bunn, J.Y., Nickerson, J.P., & McGee, E. (2018). Dopamine-Dependent Cognitive Processes after Menopause: The Relationship between COMT Genotype, Estradiol, and Working Memory. Neurobiology of Aging, 72, 53-61.


Ivanova MY, Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA, Turner LV, Dumas JA, Almeida V, Anafarta-Sendag M, Bite I, Boomsma DI, Caldas JC, Capps JW, Chen YC, Colombo P, da Silva Oliveira M, Dobrean A, Erol N, Frigerio A, Funabiki Y, Gedutien R, Guðmundsson HS, Heo MQ, Kim YA, Lee TS, Leite M, Liu J, Markovic J, Misiec M, Müller M, Oh KJ, Portillo-Reyes V, Retz W, Sebre SB, Shi S, Sigurðardóttir SH, Simulioien R, Sokoli E, Tomasevic T, Vink JM, ZasĘpa E. (2020). The generalizability of Older Adult Self-Report (OASR) syndromes of psychopathology across 20 societies.  Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. Jan 29. doi: 10.1002/gps.5268. PubMed PMID: 31994777.


Conley AC, Albert KA, Boyd B, Kim SG, Shokouhi S, McDonald BC, Saykin AJ, Dumas J, Newhouse PA. (2020). Cognitive complaints are associated with reduced medial temporal gray matter volume in younger postmenopausal women. Menopause, 27(11): 1120-1127.


Potter, A., Dube, S., Allgaier, N., Loso, H., Ivanova, M., Barrios, L.C., Bookheimer, S., Chaarani, B., Dumas, J., Feldstein-Ewing, S., Freedman, E.G., Garavan, H., Hoffman, E., McGlade, E., Robin, L., Johns, M.M. (2021). Early Adolescent Gender Diversity and Mental Health in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 62(2): 171-179. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13248