Faculty member

PD Dr Julia Sacher
Phone:+49 341 9940-2409

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences


Research Interests


Julia is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist interested in how hormones impact brain and behavior in health and disease. Our group uses apply multimodal neuroimaging techniques (PET & fMRI) to study changes in neurochemistry and neural activity in the female brain and how they relate to emotion and mood.

Available PhD projects:

We are currently welcoming new PhD candidates for a project, which is designed to investigate the impact of oral contraceptives (the pill) on emotional reactivity, reward processing and the stress response.

Oral contraceptives (OCs) are taken by millions of women worldwide every day. Accumulating evidence supports a higher risk for depression in women on the pill than those not taking oral contraceptives. While several lines of research indicate that endogenous sex steroids affect a broad spectrum of human behavior, little is known about the psychological, neurobiological and physiological effects of OC-intake outside of the reproductive system. To address fundamental questions about how individual endogenous hormonal state and the downregulation by OCs influence mood, the female body and the brain, we will investigate indicators of emotional, physiological and neural stress in a placebo-controlled neuroimaging study. We will test effects of menstrual cycle- and OC-intake dependent hormonal fluctuations on reward processing and underlying neural correlates (neural activation, resting state functional connectivity and structural connectivity), as well as on inflammatory markers. Within this scope, we are looking for a candidate to be working closely (possible co-supervision) with Dr. Engert (Psychosocial Stress Lab) to help us advance a new multi-level strategy to understanding mechanisms by which ovarian hormones protect the female body and brain from stress.

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