Beacon Transcript – A new study sought to detect the effects of stress on the brain and find out why boys and girls, especially in their teenage years, have such different reactions to traumatic stress events.
The fact that each and every person is affected differently by stress is a commonly known fact, but recent research has shown that a person’s gender may also play a role in the way one reacts.
The recent finds belong to a team of Stanford University School of Medicine researchers led by Dr. Victor Carrion, psychiatry professor, and were published in the Depression and Anxiety journals.
The study sought to analyze the effects of stress, especially cases of traumatic stress, on the teenage boys and girls brains and their reaction to it.
As previous studies had already shown that teenagers react differently to traumatic stress situations, none had been able to explain why this happens.
The current research was based on the MRI brain scans of a number of 59 children aged 9 to 17. Out of the total number, 14 boys and 15 girls accounting to 29 participants, had not suffered any traumatic events.
A further 16 boys and 14 girls coming to account for 30 of the study’s participants, had experienced at least one traumatic event.
Five of these participants had passed through one such event, whilst the remaining 25 members of the group had been exposed to such a traumatic stress or chronic trauma case.
The MRI results of the 29 children who did not go through any traumatic events, or the control group, did not reveal any difference in between their brain structures.
However, the brain scans of the teenage boys and girls that had been exposed to stress revealed differences in their brain area called the insula, more specifically, in its anterior circular sulcus.
The boys that had gone through traumatic events had a larger anterior circular sulcus surface and volume area than the boys in the control group.
In contrast, the girls in the trauma group exhibited a smaller surface and volume levels of the same area as compared to the girls in the control group.
The insula is the region of the brain which helps one integrate action, feelings, and various other brain functions.
The area which was discovered to exhibit differences, the anterior circular sulcus, is in charge of detecting the cues sent by the body. After detecting them, it will also help process empathy and emotions.
As the volume and surface of the insula change as children grow older, the results of the research seem to imply that traumatic stress events could lead to an accelerated rate of cortical aging in girls.
The results could also confirm previous findings that seem to imply that high levels of stress may contribute to an earlier appearance of puberty in the girls’ case.
As the brain differences between teenage boys and girls to have passed through traumatic events were explained, researchers could continue the research so as to better counter the effects of stress as based on gender.
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