Bronwyn is an ARC researcher with two active Discovery Projects. Her research focuses on the biological processes underlying the development and treatment of anxiety disorders, with the aim of developing ways of augmenting the effectiveness of current treatments by combining them with novel adjuncts that target these processes. She is particularly interested in the impact of female sex hormones like estrogen, given that women are twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders compared to men. Bronwyn and colleagues have recently completed a clinical trial of exposure therapy for spider phobia which showed that women respond much better to treatment, and show much greater sustained recovery from symptoms, when it is delivered during periods of heightened estrogen (e.g., ovulation). These findings could fundamentally transform the way that anxiety treatments are delivered to women, by routinely taking factors that affect hormonal status (like hormonal contraceptive use, menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause) into account.
"The issue of gender equity in the science workplace goes well beyond the need for equal representation across professions. It is, fundamentally, a women's health issue. Sex differences at genetic, physiological, behavioural, and cognitive levels, have been recognised for decades in many species, including humans. Despite this, male subjects continue to vastly outnumber female subjects across almost all areas of biomedical research. In neuroscience, 5.5 male animals are used for every female. Uniquely female variables including fluctuations in sex hormones, use of hormonal contraception, and pregnancy, are routinely ignored. Amazingly, this is true even for the study of clinical conditions that are substantially more likely to affect women than men (e.g., anxiety disorders, stroke, and thyroid conditions). We need women, with their uniquely female experiences, to contribute to the science that underlies the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of health conditions, particularly those most relevant to women."