A new study by USC researchers reveals that stressed men looking at angry faces had diminished activity in the brain regions responsible for understanding others' feelings.
Turns out the silent and stoic response to stress might be a guy thing after all.
"These are the first findings to indicate that sex differences in the effects of stress on social behavior extend to one of the most basic social transactions — processing someone else's facial expression," said Mara Mather, director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC.
In an article appearing the October 6 issue of the journal NeuroReport, Mather and her coauthors present a series of tests indicating that, under acute stress, men had less brain response to facial expressions, in particular, fear and anger.
In both men and women, looking at pictures of faces caused activity in the part of the brain used in basic visual processing (the "fusiform face area") and in parts of the brain used for interpreting and understanding facial expressions.
However, men under acute stress showed decreased activity not only in the fusiform face area but also decreased coordination among parts of the brain that help us interpret what emotions these faces are conveying.
In a marked sex difference, women under stress showed the opposite — women under stress had increased activity in the fusiform face area and increased coordination among the regions of the brain used in interpreting facial emotions compared to the control group.
Cortisol levels, a known indication of stress, were manipulated using the cold pressor stress test, with no significant sex differences in baseline cortisol or degree of cortisol change.
Men and women under stress were as adept as those in the control group at remembering the faces.
"The study indicates that experiencing acute stress can affect subsequent activity and interactions in brain regions in opposite ways for males and females," said Mather, associate professor of gerontology and psychology in the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
"Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support," Mather said.
Prior research has shown the crucial role of the insula in helping us simulate the experiences of others, while the temporal pole has been shown to be important for understanding the emotions of others. Both are part of a known circuit — along with the inferior frontal region and the amygdala — that contribute to empathy and social understanding.
The study looked at forty-seven right-handed non-smokers. All participants were asked to refrain from exercise or caffeine in the hour before the study and none of the participants were on hormone birth control or steroid medications.
Nichole Lighthall and Lin Nga of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and Marissa Gorlick of the University of Texas also contributed to the study, which was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.
Mather et. al, "Sex differences in how stress affects brain activity during face viewing." NeuroReport: October 2010.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology