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Thread: Study Reports Gender Differences in Brain Response to Pain

  1. #1
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    Study Reports Gender Differences in Brain Response to Pain

    Study Reports Gender Differences in Brain Response to Pain
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    UCLA PAIN PET LOS ANGELES GENDER
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    A new study shows that different parts of the brain are stimulated in reaction to pain depending on gender. The research represents the largest gender comparison study of its kind and included people with irritable bowel disease (IBS) - one of the nation's leading chronic medical conditions.



    Newswise - A new UCLA study shows that different parts of the brain are stimulated in reaction to pain depending on gender. The research represents the largest gender comparison study of its kind and included people with irritable bowel disease (IBS) - one of the nation's leading chronic medical conditions. The findings may help develop and target better treatments for IBS and other illnesses.

    "We are finding more scientific differences between men and women as we improve research methods and broaden study populations," said Dr. Emeran Mayer, co-author of the study and UCLA professor of medicine, physiology and psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences, and director of the C.N.S.: Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women's Health. "This growing base of research will help us develop more effective treatments based on a new criteria - gender."

    The study, published in the June 2003 issue of Gastroenterology, included 26 women and 24 men with irritable bowel syndrome. UCLA researchers took positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans of patients during mild pain stimulus.

    Researchers found some overlapping areas of brain activation, but in other areas male and female brains reacted quite differently, even though both sexes were given the same pain stimulus. The female brain showed greater activity in limbic regions, which are emotion-based centers. In men, the cognitive regions - analytical-based centers - showed greater activity.

    "The reason for the two different brain responses may date back to primitive days when the roles of men and women were more distinct," said Dr. Bruce Naliboff, study co-author and UCLA clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, and co-director, C.N.S.: Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women's Health.

    According to Naliboff, these sex differences in brain responses to pain may have evolved as part of a more general difference in stress responses between men and women. Men's cognitive areas may be more highly triggered as part of their primary early role in defending the homestead - where in response to stress and pain, men launched a calculated fight or flight reaction. The female limbic regions may be more responsive under threat due to its importance in triggering a nurturing and protecting response for the young -- which leads to a more emotion-based response in facing pain and stress. Naliboff notes that both responses have advantages and neither is better. In fact, under conditions of external threat, the different responses may lead to complementary behaviors between men and women.

    In addition, researchers also found that the anticipation of receiving some type of pain sensation generated the same brain responses from study volunteers as actually receiving the stimulus. "The brain is a powerful force in dictating how the body responds to pain and stress," said study co-author Dr. Lin Chang, associate professor of medicine, UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases and co-director of the C.N.S.: Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women's Health.

    The next step, according to Mayer, is to look at how these different brain responses may impact treatment for IBS and possibly other disorders. Mayer adds that one current drug for IBS, called Lotronex®, affects the limbic system and has worked more successfully in women than men.

    This study and subsequent research is part of a newly created center at UCLA, called the C.N.S.: Center for Neurovisceral Sciences and Women's Health, which studies how the brain, stress and emotions impact the development of disorders that affect mainly women.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects 15 to 20 percent of Americans and causes discomfort in the abdomen, along with diarrhea and/or constipation.

    The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases and the National Institute of Nursing Research, both part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the study.



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    © 2003 Newswise. All Rights Reserved.

  2. #2
    This is interesting but I REALLY wish they would be able to do some kind of test to tell if people are in chronic pain. It's insult to injury to have an illness that can't be proved and one is considered a malingerer.

    Calico

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