Male and female brains function differently on a molecular level, researchers have discovered.
As reported by UPI, researchers at Northwestern University made their discovery while testing the effects of an anti-depressant drug on the male and female brains of mice.
According to a press release, the research is important because the drug they were working with, URB-597, which is an anti-depressant that regulates a molecule important for the release of neurotransmitters, is moving forward in clinical trials with humans.
Catherine S. Woolley, a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University, said studying the effects of drugs on male and female brains can change the face of medicine.
“The importance of studying sex differences in the brain is about making biology and medicine relevant to everyone, to both men and women. It is not about things such as who is better at reading a map or why more men than women choose to enter certain professions.”
— Aspie Savant (@AspieSavant) July 11, 2015
According to the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, tests on the drug were aimed at endocannabinoids, as reported by UPI.
“(They) regulate the amount of neurotransmitters released at brain synapses in the hippocampus and are involved with bodily processes that include memory, motivational state, appetite and pain.”
The drug reportedly increased the effect of an endocannabinoid called anandamide to lower the release of neurotransmitters in female mice. In males, however, the drug had no effect. The researchers noted that that the results were not an effect of circulating reproductive hormones.
The research is relevant because scientists have known for years that brain disorders differ between men and women. But it has been unclear whether the difference in the male and female brains were biological or cultural.
— Muse (@ChooseMuse) June 26, 2015
This study pinpoints a chemical difference in the brain between men and women, which points to legitimate biological differences.
To determine the cause of the difference, Woolley and her team used a series of electrophysiological and biochemical studies. They found the difference between the sexes in a particular molecular pathway, the interaction between the molecules ERalpha and mGluR1.
Woolley says scientists need to begin to include findings relevant to the male and female brains of subjects in their research, including animal studies, to find important similarities and differences.
“We are not doing women — and specifically women’s health — any favors by pretending that things are the same if they are not. If the results of research would be different in female animals, tissues and cells, then we need to know. This is essential so that we can find appropriate diagnoses, treatments and, ultimately, cures for disease in both sexes.”
Surely many of you have noticed a remarkable difference in the male and female brain. Now researchers may be able to conclusively prove it.
[Photo via Shutterstock]