Study: Sex differences in stress regulation of arousal and cognition

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Sex differences in stress regulation of arousal and cognition


•  We propose that stress biases males and females towards different disorders.
•  Psychiatric disorders with hyperarousal symptoms are common in women.
•  Increased stress sensitivity of an arousal center in females helps explain this bias.
•  Psychiatric disorders with cognitive deficits are common in men.
•  Male vulnerability to stress regulation of cognition likely contributes to this bias.



There are sex differences in the prevalence and presentation of many psychiatric disorders. For example, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression are more common in women than men, and women with these disorders present with more hyperarousal symptoms than men. In contrast, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia are more common in men than women, and men with these disorders have increased cognitive deficits compared to women. A shared feature of the aforementioned psychiatric disorders is the contribution of stressful events to their onset and/or severity. Here we propose that sex differences in stress responses bias females towards hyperarousal and males towards cognitive deficits. Evidence from clinical and preclinical studies is detailed. We also describe underlying neurobiological mechanisms. For example, sex differences in stress receptor signaling and trafficking in the locus coeruleus-arousal center are detailed. In learning circuits, evidence for sex differences in dendritic morphology is provided. Finally, we describe how evaluating sex-specific mechanisms for responding to stress in female and male rodents can lead to better treatments for stress-related psychiatric disorders.


Thoughts: If climax is a subtle form of temporary stress on the brain, this may help to explain why some (mostly men) seek detachment and just want to recover their sharp mental powers over the days following, while othrs (mostly women) tend to become hyper-emotional and overreactive. Nasty trick of human biology.