High levels of estrogen may enhance the brains response to stress, making women more vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a Yale study.
This finding may explain why stress-related mental illnesses occur at least twice as often in women as in men. It also may explain why the discrepancy in prevalence begins in women at puberty, continues through the childbearing years, and then declines in postmenopausal years, said Becca Shansky, a graduate student in neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study to be published in the March issue of Molecular Psychiatry.
The researchers exposed male and female rats to different levels of stress and then tested them on a short-term memory task. The authors found that without stress, males and females performed at the same level. After exposure to high levels of stress, both genders made significant memory errors. However, after exposure to a moderate level of stress, the female rats were impaired, but the males were not, suggesting that females were more sensitive to the effects of stress. Male rats performed the same with moderate stress as they did without any stress.
Jacqueline Weaver | EurekAlert!
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