Trauma Affects Boys' And Girls' Brain Differently

By Monica U Santos , Nov 15, 2016 02:27 AM EST

Stanford University School of Medicine in California discovers intriguing differences between male and female brains following traumatic stress. Apparently, the new study shows that traumatic events may affect the brains of boys and girls differently. Also, past trauma and stress levels have different effects on brains of opposite sexes especially on youth. This maybe because the youth were prone to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

The Role Of Anterior Circular Sulcus: Higher Functions On Trauma Symptoms

As reported by LiveScience, among boys in the study, a brain area called the anterior circular sulcus was larger among those who had symptoms of a trauma, compared with a control group of boys who did not have any trauma symptoms. But among girls in the study, this brain region was smaller among those who had trauma symptoms. The region is associated with emotional awareness and empathy, the researchers said. Anterior circular sulcus plays a role in certain "higher" functions that operate only in humans.

The researchers are surprised by the result of the study. Megan Klabunde, the lead author of the study and a psychologist and neuroscience researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine said, "The boys and girls were so clearly on different ends of the spectrum." She also mentioned that "exposure to traumatic stress may impact brain development rates." The insula is crucial and vital in the development of PTSD.

The PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by a particularly frightening, stressful, or distressing event. As of this moment, PTSD affects an estimated 24.4 million Americans, that is around 8 percent of the population. The exact mechanisms behind PTSD remain unknown. Similarly, the reasons why some people who experience trauma go on to develop PTSD while others do not are poorly understood.

A team of researchers recently set out to investigate potential reasons behind this gender difference in more detail. According to the report byMNT, the study has shown that girls who experience trauma are more likely to go on to develop PTSD than boys. Their results were published earlier this week in the journal Depression and Anxiety.

To gather an understanding of the brain changes that take place in PTSD, researchers took MRI scans of 59 participants aged 9-17. Of the participants, 30 had trauma symptoms (14 girls and 16 boys); five of these individuals had experienced one period of trauma, while the others had experienced two or more episodes or had experienced chronic trauma. The remaining 29 participants had not experienced trauma (15 girls and 14 boys) and were used as the control group.

Although the study demonstrated clear differences, the researchers want to expand their research. They hope to design longitudinal studies where traumatized individuals can be followed over a longer period of time to understand the changes in more detail. Once a definite picture has been built, gender-specific treatments can eventually be designed to improve the outlook for individuals of both sexes with PTSD.


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