Episode 6: Demystifying the Female Brain - From Genes to Behavior (Guest: Dr. Marija Kundakovic)

Our DNA expression controls nearly if not everything that we are. It informs how we look, the diseases we are susceptible to, and shapes our personality. It even sets the bar for our risk of developing anxiety and depression. Females are twice as likely as males to develop these symptoms, and we have yet to find why. In today’s episode, we speak with Dr. Marija Kundakovic, assistant professor in Neuroscience at Fordham University where she studies the epigenetic basis of behavior. Her work focuses on the hormonal and environmental factors that mediate sex differences in depression, anxiety and drug abuse. Her findings can open the door to development of new diagnostic tools, and new preventative and therapeutic approaches addressing female mental health. She offers a multidisciplinary insight that gets right down to the question that keeps all of us scientists up at night: how does it work?

Marija Kundakovic


Tori Lovallo


Claire Ward


You can download the transcript of this episode at https://neuronair.org/ep6transcript
Time Stamps:
00:00 – Intro
02:30 – Dr. Kundakovic’s research questions at a broad level
03:16 – Epigenetic regulation in the Brain
06:03 – Current projects in Dr. Kundakovic’s lab
10:48 – Techniques in neuroepigenetics
13:53 – Dr. Kundakovic’s path to research 
16:35 – Menarche to menopause: Increased female risk for anxiety and depression
19:31 – An underrepresented majority: females as research subjects
23:03 – Changes in the female brain: genes to synapses
24:50 – Epigenetic priming: increased susceptibility for psychopathology
27:04 – Susceptibility and strength: females overcoming obstacles
31:08 – Lessons for the next generation: Inclusivity
33:03 – Outro