Division of Research Special Seminar: Social status, sex hormones, and inflammation as determinants of inequalities in stress and health

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Date: February 19, 2020
Time: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Location: Integrative Biosciences Center 1d | Map
6135 Woodward Ave.
Detroit , MI 48202
Category: Seminar

Division of Research Special Seminar

Social status, sex hormones, and inflammation as determinants of inequalities in stress and health

Guest Speaker, Dr. Erik Knight, Pennsylvania State University

February 19, 2020

1 to 2 p.m.

IBio Conference Center - Room 1D

The university community is invited to join the Division of Research for a special seminar with guest speaker, Erik Knight, Ph.D., post-doctoral research fellow in the Center for Healthy Aging & Department of Biobehavioral Health at Pennsylvania State University.

The seminar will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 1 to 2 p.m. in the IBio Conference Center, Room 1D. Dr. Knight will present, "Social status, sex hormones, and inflammation as determinants of inequalities in stress and health."

Dr. Erik KnightDr. Knight received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Oregon, his MS in psychology from the University of Oregon, a BS with research distinction in psychology and a BA in chemistry, Magna Cum Laude from Ohio State University. His research broadly focuses on sex hormones, stress, and health outcomes within social hierarchies. He also examines biological determinants of status-seeking social behavior with a particular emphasis on casual mechanisms linking biology to behavior. His research aims to uncover psychosocial and biological determinants of resilience to social disparities in stress and health.


Social status has been extensively linked to inequalities in stress and health: Lower status is associated with increased stress and increased morbidity and mortality from an array of health conditions. Sex hormones are theorized to drive status-seeking motivation and behaviors. Though sex hormones also modulate stress responses and immune functioning, little work has focused on this intersection of sex hormones’ social and biological influences in determining risk for stress and negative health outcomes. In order to better understand stress and health disparities, in this talk I will examine social status and sex hormones as determinants of stress and health, as well as the factors that determine for whom and when these pathways may be most impactful. I will highlight my experimental research demonstrating social status’ and testosterone’s effects on physiological, affective, and behavioral responses to stress. I am advancing these ideas by targeting inflammation as a mechanistic pathway by which social status and sex hormones may influence health and by examining other societal factors associated with health inequality, including race, ethnicity, and gender. Specifically, I will present naturalistic research focused on social status, sex hormones, and other biosocial factors related to inflammation (e.g., gut bacterial translocation) that may alter risk for disease pathogenesis (i.e., Alzheimer’s Disease, depressive symptomology). Ultimately my program of research holds direct relevance for understanding, and intervening on, the mechanisms that produce social disparities in stress and health.


Julie O'Connor




Academic Staff, Alumni, Community, Current Graduate Students, Current Undergraduate Students, Faculty, Staff

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