Male and female brains regulate social behavior differently: Study

By Ryan Maass   |   Nov. 1, 2016 at 4:02 PM

ATLANTA, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- There are chemical differences in how male and female brains regulate aggression in response to stress, Georgia State University scientists suggest.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team found that male and female brains process serotonin and arginine-vasopressin, or AVP, in opposite ways to influence aggression and dominance. Because aggresion and dominance behaviors have been linked to stress resistence, scientists say the findings support the need for sex-specific treatments for stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.

"These results begin to provide a neurochemical basis for understanding how the social brain works quite differently in males and females," lead researcher Elliot Albers said in a press release.

In a study of hamsters, the research team found serotonin promotes and AVP inhibits aggression and dominance in females. The reverse effect was found in males, with AVP promoting and serotonin inhibiting aggression and dominance. The serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine, one of the most prescribed drugs for psychiatric disorders, was also found to increase aggression in females while inhibiting it in males.

Researchers suggest stress-related disorders such as PTSD may be better treated with serotonin-targeted drugs in women and AVP-targeted drugs in men.

Rates of incidence of neuropsychiatric disorders often differ between men and women, as does the expression of symptoms of the same disorder. Treatment strategies are typically the same for both sexes, however.

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