Faculty

Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, PhD

Research Assistant Professor of Gerontology

Education

  • PhD, Psychology: Cognitive Neuroscience, USC, 2014
  • MA, Psychology: Behavioral Neuroscience, USC, 2009
  • BA, Psychology with Biological emphasis, USC, 2005

Research

  • influence of sex hormone levels and status on the cortisol response to stress
  • interactions between the sex hormone and stress response systems on cognition across the adult female lifespan

Overview

Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, PhD, researches the intersection of sex hormones and the stress response. In particular, the ability of estradiol to modulate the cortisol response in women. Women experience extreme changes in sex hormone profile across the lifespan. With the onset of puberty, women begin experiencing cyclic fluctuations in estradiol and progesterone levels. These fluctuations are associated with changes in mood and cognition. Many women experience further alterations in hormone profile during the reproductive years through the use of hormonal contraception, another factor shown to influence mood and cognition. Then, in midlife, women experience menopause. During this time, women stop experiencing monthly fluctuations and eventually experience the lowest levels of these hormones than any other point in life. This new hormonal state also is associated with changes in mood and cognition. Dr. Herrera’s research aims to understand how these changes in hormone profile across the adult female lifespan affect the stress-response system and the subsequent effects of stress on cognition.

Dr. Herrera utilizes a number of modalities in her research program including behavioral testing, neuroimaging using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) for hormone measurements.

Connect:

Email: ycaza@usc.edu

Office Location: GER 351


Publications and links:

Curriculum Vitae