According to the results of a vast study just published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, brain and psychiatric disorders present differently in men and women. Imaging systems that can distinguish gender-based differences in brain function may soon play an important role in the development of new treatments.
To better understand the causes of mental disorders in diseases such as Alzheimer's, and develop newer, more targeted treatments, American researchers at the Amen Clinics, in Newport Beach, California, analyzed the functioning of 128 regions of men's and women's brains.
Among the subjects studied, 26,683 suffered from a variety of psychiatric conditions (bipolar disorders, mood disorders, psychoses, schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders), and 119 were healthy volunteers.
The researchers used a high-precision scintigraphic system, SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging, which produces images and 3D models of organs and their metabolism, to identify hypoactive and hyperactive zones in subjects' brains.
The results of the study indicate that healthy women's brains are more active in many more areas than healthy men's brains. Among women suffering from mental disorders, cerebral activity was particularly dense on the level of the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that is linked to concentration, the control of emotions and the limbic system, which is closely associated with anxiety and mood.
Among men, the region responsible for vision in the occipital lobe, and the region responsible for coordination in the temporal lobe, which is also linked to a wide range of cognitive functions (hearing, language, memory and object recognition), were more active than they were among women.
These findings may partially explain why women often demonstrate greater aptitude for empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate concern, and also why they are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, insomnia and eating disorders.
Taking into account these gender-based brain differences could pave the way for innovative research, notably in the field of Alzheimer's disease (AD), concludes the study.
It should be noted that women are more likely to suffer from AD, depression -- which is a known risk factor for Alzheimer's -- and anxiety disorders. Men are more likely to suffer from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders as well as behavioral problem.
These findings have been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.