university of pittsburgh
center for research in reproductive physiology
university of pittsburgh school of medicine

Faculty and Research Interests

Judy L. Cameron
Ph.D., University of Arizona

Dr. Cameron's research in reproductive biology focuses on understanding the effects of everyday life stresses on the hormonal regulation of the reproductive axis and fertility, using the non-human primate as an experimental model. Stresses that are examined include mild nutritional stresses (such as missing one or two meals, mild dieting, changing the time of meal intake), exercise, and mild psychosocial stress. Much of the current work in her laboratory examines how a combination of mild metabolic stress combined with mild psychosocial stress impacts on the reproductive axis. Current experimental aims include:

  1. determination of the neural mechanisms by which nutritional, exercise, and psychosocial stresses suppress the activity of GnRH neurons,
  2. determination of the impact of nutritional, exercise and psychosocial stresses on fertility,
  3. examination of how stresses combine to impact on reproductive function, and
  4. identification of physiological factors that predispose individuals to stress-induced reproductive dysfunction.

Techniques utilized in these experiments include maintenance of monkeys with chronically indwelling venous, intracerebroventricular and gastric cannulae, infusion of pharmacological agents, immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization, confocal microscopy, and microarray technology for studying gene expression. Recent findings from Dr. Cameron's laboratory show

  1. that mild metabolic and psychosocial stresses act synergistically to greatly increase the incidence of menstrual cycle abnormalities,
  2. that the primate hypothalamus contains many more populations of NPY neurons than the rodent brain and many of them are modulated by metabolic signals, and
  3. that there are several physiological measures that can be used to identify individuals who are particularly sensitive to stress-induced reproductive dysfunction (including high normal physiological levels of sympathetic tone to the heart, low follicular phase peak serum estradiol concentrations and low peak luteal phase serum progesterone concentrations.

As described above in the description of Dr. Berga's project, fellows in Dr. Cameron's laboratory will have an unusual opportunity to be involved in studies employing non-human primate models in parallel with investigation of the pathophysiology underlying functional hypothalamic amenorrhea in women.

Although Dr. Cameron also maintains an active research program at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, she divides her time equally between the two institutions.

Representative Publications

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