Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Men, women and responses to stress

Women have twice the rate of depression and anxiety of men and scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that different parts of the brain are activated under stress in the two sexes. Researchers studied 16 men and 16 women who received brain scans before, during and after they underwent a challenging arithmetic test under pressure. Participants were frequently prompted for a faster performance and asked to restart the test if they responded incorrectly. In men it was found that stress was associated with increased activity in the right pre-frontal cortex and decreased activity in the left orbitofrontal cortex. In women the limbic system - a part of the brain primarily involved in emotions - showed more activity. Women showed more lasting effects from the task although men produced more of the stress-related hormone cortisol. The research backs up evolutionary theories that men are primed for a 'fight-or-flight' response to stress whereas women tend to a 'tend and befriend' approach nurturing children and strengthening social ties to deal with adversity

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