Traumatic Stress Affects Genders’ Brains Differently

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ALTHOUGH we might still be fighting for gender equality on many fronts, the fact still remains that there are some genetic differences between men and women, and there are some important reasons to pay attention to that fact. According to a new study at Stanford University School of Medicine, the brains of kids who experience traumatic stress are affected differently based on their gender.

The study found that traumatic stress affects the development of the insula, which is a region of the brain that gets cues from the body to integrate emotions and empathy. Generally, the region gets smaller as kids get older. The researchers found no differences between the brain structure of boys or girls who had experienced trauma, but they did see big differences in a portion of the insula called the anterior circular sulcus.

It seems as though when female children are exposed to trauma and develop posttraumatic stress disorder, it accelerate maturation o the brain region where the insula is located, making it appear smaller than it does in the brains of boys. The region was also smaller in the brains of the girls who were exposed to trauma, in comparison to the control group of girls that they were testing against.

These findings could be really important for a lot of reasons. For one thing, some experts believe that stress can lead to early puberty in girls, and that certainly seems to match this example of early maturation. Additionally, there might be some differences in how boys and girls could be treated when they are experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder.

“By better understanding sex differences in a region of the brain involved in emotion processing, clinicians and scientists may be able to develop sex-specific trauma and emotion dysregulation treatments.”

Further research on the topic is obviously needed, but the researchers on this study are confident that these findings could help to explain some emotional differences that play out between the genders.