Men More Likely To Be Affected By Stress Than Women, Study Shows

In Education

New research has found that gender influences how stress affects women and men with men likely to be more affected. These findings might facilitate development of customized approaches that address obesity and depression. The study revealed that when exposed to stress, specific brain cells in male mice underwent alterations, while these cells remained unaffected in female mice.

Oligodendrocytes react differently to stress in men and women

The study by the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and Weizmann Institute scientists analysed the brain activity of mice at higher resolution compared to previous studies .

The study found that specific cells, particularly oligodendrocytes in the brain, exhibited varying levels of vulnerability to stress between males and females. In males, chronic stress led to notable changes in the structure and behavior of oligodendrocytes, affecting their interaction with neighboring nerve cells. On the other hand, female oligodendrocytes remained relatively unaffected by stress, highlighting their resilience to it.

The historical perception of gender differences in stress reactions has been biased due to a focus on male mice in research. The impact of female-specific factors like menstruation and hormonal changes on stress reactions was overlooked as a potential influencing factor.

Males and females respond differently to stress levels

Max Planck Institute’s Dr Elena Brivio and lead study author said that they focused in the brain area that acts as a central hub for stress response in animals which is the paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Using RNA sequencing at a single-cell level, the study mapped stress responses in male and female mice’s brain. Three key aspects were analysed including stress response of different cell types, reaction of previously stressed cells to new stress, and gender-based differences in these responses.

Brivio emphasized that the inclusion of female animals in research, particularly in neuroscience and behavioural science, is crucial for obtaining a comprehensive understanding of brain activity, even in studies not directly comparing gender differences.

Professor Alon Chen concluded that the findings demonstrate that for stress related conditions emanating from diabetes and depression it is critical to consider gender due to its crucial effect on how various brain cells react to stress.

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