It is a well known fact that women cope stress better than men. But now the reason behind it has been discovered by a new study.
The protective effect of female hormone estrogen arms women against stress. Researchers from the University at Buffalo in US found that the enzyme aromatase, which produces estradiol, an estrogen hormone, in the brain, is responsible for female stress resilience.
The researchers observed rats when repeatedly exposed to stress, females respond better than males. Their ability to remember and recognize previously shown objects was not impaired. Whereas young male rats exposed to the same stress had their short-term memory influenced.
"We have examined the molecular mechanism underlying gender-specific effects of stress," said senior author Zhen Yan, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the university. "Previous studies have found that females are more resilient to chronic stress and now our research has found the reason why," Yan said.
Last year, Yan and colleagues published in journal Neuron a paper showing that repeated stress results in loss of the glutamate receptor in the prefrontal cortex of young males. The new study shows that the glutamate receptor in the prefrontal cortex of stressed females is intact.
The stressors used in the experiments mimic challenging and stressful, but not dangerous, experiences that human’s face, such as those causing frustration and feelings of being under pressure, Yan said.
By manipulating the amount of estrogen produced in the brain, the UB researchers were able to make the males respond to stress more like females and the females respond more like males.
"When estrogen signalling in the brains of females was blocked, stress exhibited detrimental effects on them. When estrogen signalling was activated in males, the detrimental effects of stress were blocked," Yan said. "We still found the protective effect of estrogen in female rats whose ovaries were removed. It suggests that it might be estrogen produced in the brain that protects against the detrimental effects of stress," he added.
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