By Lata Jha:
Ever wondered why the woman of the family seems to always hold it together? It could be the gravest work crisis, or an illness at home, but she seems pretty adept at handling it. A new study says that women are better at coping with stress than men due to the protective effect of the female hormone estrogen. 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 research that was carried out in rats, showed that when exposed to repeated incidents of stress, females respond better than males because of the protective effect of estrogen. In this UB study, young female rats exposed to one week of periodic physical restraint stress showed no impairment in their ability to remember and recognise objects they had previously been shown. In contrast, young males exposed to the same stress were impaired in their short-term memory.
A change or impairment in the ability to correctly remember a familiar object symbolises some disturbance in the signalling ability of the glutamate receptor in the prefrontal cortex, the brain region that controls working memory, attention, decision-making, emotion and other high-level “executive” processes. The findings also provide additional support for a growing body of research which states that the glutamate receptor is the molecular target of stress, and it seems to mediate the stress response.
The stressors used in the experiments produced responses that could be categorized as challenging and stressful, but not dangerous. These were experiences that humans face, that could be described as frustrating and causing pressure.
Interestingly, the UB researchers were able to make the males respond to stress more like females and the females respond more like males by manipulating the amount of estrogen produced in the brain. When estrogen signalling in the brains of females was blocked, stress exhibited the same detrimental effects on them as it did on the males. Conversely, when estrogen signalling was activated in males, the detrimental effects of stress were blocked.
Some reason to feel proud, ladies?