Photo of Cynthia L. Bethea, Ph.D.

Cynthia L. Bethea Ph.D.

  • (503) 346-5438
    • Professor Oregon National Primate Research Center
    • Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology School of Medicine
    • Adjunct Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology School of Medicine

Cynthia L. Bethea, Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist in the Division of Reproductive and Developmental Science at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, OHSU West Campus. She also has an adjunct appointment as a Professor, Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology, OHSU.

Dr. Bethea’s research area is neuroendocrinology, the study of hormone-brain interactions. Using a monkey model of menopause, she has produced a sizable body of knowledge showing numerous beneficial actions of ovarian steroids in serotonin neurons such as increased serotonin production and increased serotonin neuron viability. Optimal serotonin system function supports mood, and decreased serotonin can lead to depression. Recently, Dr. Bethea found that consumption of a western style diet and obesity interfered with positive effects of estrogen on gene expression in serotonin neurons.

Dr. Bethea has also defined the neural consequences of normal life stress that leads to infertility in stress-sensitive women. Using a monkey model of neural-based infertility, she has shown that stress increased norepinephrine innervation of reproductive circuits that in turn alter the function of peptide neurons controlling the pituitary. Next, she will test the hypothesis that neural peptide alteration prevents secretion of the pituitary hormone that stimulates the ovary toward ovulation, and that blocking stress-induced norepinephrine will restore timely pituitary secretion and ovulation in stress-sensitive individuals.  

Dr. Bethea has also studied the effect of steroid hormones on serotonin and norepinephrine systems in males; the location and regulation of steroid hormone receptors in different brain regions of males and females; and serotonin neurons derived from macaque embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Bethea joined the Oregon National Primate Research Center in 1981 after obtaining a Ph.D. in the Department of Physiology, Emory University School of Medicine and concluding a postdoctoral fellowship in the Reproductive Endocrinology Center at the University of California, San Francisco. She is a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. She has served on the Editorial Board of 8 journals, as a full member of the Biochemical Endocrinology Study Section of NIH, and as an ad hoc member of 10 additional NIH study sections or special review groups. She has 133 peer reviewed publications and 16 review chapters.

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Areas of interest

  • Reproductive Neuroendocrinology
  • Obesity effects on reproductive neuroendocrinology
  • Steroid hormone action in the brain
  • Infertility with neural basis


  • B.A., Winthrop College, Rock Hill South Carolina 1972
  • M.S., Clemson University, Clemson South Carolina 1975
  • Ph.D., Emory University, Atlanta Georgia 1978
  • Fellowship:

    • Neuroendocrinology, Univ California, San Francisco, CA , postdoctoral, 8/1981

Honors and awards

  • Fellow, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)

Memberships and associations

  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Fellow
  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Society for Biological Psychiatry
  • World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry
  • Emeritus- The Endocrine Society- Women in Endocrinology
  • Emeritus- Society for the Study of Reproduction
  • Editorial Board: Endocrinology 1989-1993
  • Editorial Board: American Journal of Physiology 1995-1998
  • Editorial Board: Endocrine 2001-2010
  • Editorial Board: Neuroendocrinology 2007-2012
  • Editorial Board: Journal of Neuroendocrinology 2007-2012
  • Editorial Board: Frontiers in Neuroendocrine Science 2010-present
  • Editorial Board: Frontiers in Pituitary Endocrinology 2011- present
  • NIH Study Section: Biochemical Endocrinology Study Section - Full member 7/91 - 6/95
  • NIH Study Section: Endocrinology Special Study Section, Nov. 1991
  • NIH Study Section: Endocrinology Fellowship Study Section, Oct. 1995
  • NIH Study Section: Integrative Functional &Cognitive Neuroscience-2, Ad Hoc 1998
  • NIH Study Section: Biochemical Endocrinology Study Section, ad hoc June 2003
  • NIH Study Section: Chair, ZMH1 ERB-M A1 S Aug 2009
  • NIH Study Section: Developmental Pharmacology ZRG1 Aug 2010
  • NIH Study Section: NNBS Study Section ad hoc Feb 2014
  • Special Review Group: U54 Center Grant, Baylor University, Oct. 1997
  • Special Review Group: U54 Center Grant, Georgetown University, Nov. 1997
  • Special Review Group: P30 Center Grant, Vanderbilt University, July, 1991


  • "Effect of an obesogenic diet on circadian activity and serum hormones in old monkeys." Endocrine Connections  In: , Vol. 6, No. 6, 01.08.2017, p. 380-383.
  • "Effects of obesogenic diet and estradiol on dorsal raphe gene expression in old female macaques." PLoS One  In: , Vol. 12, No. 6, e0178788, 01.06.2017.
  • "Progesterone increased β-endorphin innervation of the locus coeruleus, but ovarian steroids had no effect on noradrenergic neurodegeneration." Brain Research  In: , Vol. 1663, 15.05.2017, p. 1-8.
  • "How Studies of the Serotonin System in Macaque Models of Menopause Relate to Alzheimer's Disease." Journal of Alzheimer's Disease  In: , Vol. 57, No. 4, 2017, p. 1001-1015.
  • "Corrigendum to "Reproductive steroid receptors and actions in the locus coeruleus of male macaques : Part of an aggression circuit?" [Prog. Neuro-Psychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry 71 (2016) 210-222]." Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry  In: , 2017.
  • "Reproductive steroid receptors and actions in the locus coeruleus of male macaques : Part of an aggression circuit?" Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry  In: , 24.02.2016.
  • "Ovarian steroids regulate gene expression in the dorsal raphe of old female macaques." Neurobiology of Aging  In: , Vol. 37, 01.01.2016, p. 179-191.
  • "Ovarian steroids regulate gene expression related to DNA repair and neurodegenerative diseases in serotonin neurons of macaques." Molecular Psychiatry  In: , Vol. 20, No. 12, 01.12.2015, p. 1565-1578.
  • "Androgen metabolites impact CSF amines and axonal serotonin via MAO-A and -B in male macaques." Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 301, 01.08.2015, p. 576-589.
  • "Localization and regulation of reproductive steroid receptors in the raphe serotonin system of male macaques." Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy  In: , Vol. 66-67, 01.07.2015, p. 19-27.
  • "High fat diet decreases beneficial effects of estrogen on serotonin-related gene expression in marmosets." Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry  In: , Vol. 58, 03.04.2015, p. 71-80.
  • "Relationships between androgens, serotonin gene expression and innervation in male macaques." Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 274, 22.08.2014, p. 341-356.
  • "Sex-specific differences in lipid and glucose metabolism." Frontiers in Endocrinology  In: , Vol. 5, No. DEC, 241, 2014.
  • "Hypothalamic KISS1 expression, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone and neurotransmitter innervation vary with stress and sensitivity in macaques." Journal of Neuroendocrinology  In: , Vol. 26, No. 5, 2014, p. 267-281.
  • "Ovarian steroids increase PSD-95 expression and dendritic spines in the dorsal raphe of ovariectomized macaques." Synapse  In: , Vol. 67, No. 12, 12.2013, p. 897-908.
  • "The effect of short moderate stress on the midbrain corticotropin-releasing factor system in a macaque model of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea." Fertility and Sterility  In: , Vol. 100, No. 4, 10.2013.
  • "The effect of short-term stress on serotonin gene expression in high and low resilient macaques." Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry  In: , Vol. 44, 01.07.2013, p. 143-153.
  • "Effects of Aromatase Inhibition and Androgen Activity on Serotonin and Behavior in Male Macaques." Behavioral Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 127, No. 3, 06.2013, p. 400-414.
  • "Ovarian Regulation of Kisspeptin Neurones in the Arcuate Nucleus of the Rhesus Monkey (Macaca mulatta)." Journal of Neuroendocrinology  In: , Vol. 25, No. 5, 05.2013, p. 488-496.
  • "Function and innervation of the locus ceruleus in a macaque model of Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea." Neurobiology of Disease  In: , Vol. 50, No. 1, 02.2013, p. 96-106.
  • "The effect of long-term ovariectomy on midbrain stress systems in free ranging macaques." Brain Research  In: , Vol. 1488, 07.12.2012, p. 24-37.
  • "Effect of ovarian steroids on gene expression related to synapse assembly in serotonin neurons of macaques." Journal of Neuroscience Research  In: , Vol. 90, No. 7, 07.2012, p. 1324-1334.
  • "Androgen effects on adipose tissue architecture and function in nonhuman primates." Endocrinology  In: , Vol. 153, No. 7, 07.2012, p. 3100-3110.
  • "The effect of citalopram on midbrain CRF receptors 1 and 2 in a primate model of stress-induced amenorrhea." Reproductive Sciences  In: , Vol. 19, No. 6, 06.2012, p. 623-632.
  • "Ovarian steroids increase spinogenetic proteins in the macaque dorsal raphe." Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 208, 19.04.2012, p. 27-40.
  • "Ovarian steroids increase glutamatergic related gene expression in serotonin neurons of macaques." Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 49, No. 3, 03.2012, p. 251-262.
  • "Long-term ovariectomy alters social and anxious behaviors in semi-free ranging Japanese macaques." Behavioural Brain Research  In: , Vol. 225, No. 1, 20.11.2011, p. 317-327.
  • "5-HTTLPR genotype and gender, but not chronic fluoxetine administration, are associated with cortical TREK1 protein expression in rhesus macaques." Neuroscience Letters  In: , Vol. 503, No. 2, 03.10.2011, p. 83-86.
  • "Long-term ovariectomy decreases serotonin neuron number and gene expression in free ranging macaques." Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 192, 29.09.2011, p. 675-688.
  • "Effects of citalopram on serotonin and CRF systems in the midbrain of primates with differences in stress sensitivity." Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy  In: , Vol. 41, No. 4, 07.2011, p. 200-218.

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