All that Stress Could Be Rapidly Eroding Ladies’ Lady-Brains

Illustration for article titled All that Stress Could Be Rapidly Eroding Ladies’ Lady-Brains

The female brain, according to some recent scientific gleanings, might be so overloaded with stress that it actually ages faster than the male brain, but don't stress about that because, first of all, nobody really knows for sure yet if this is true, and, second of all, stress is a rapacious zombie that may right this very moment be clamoring for your braaaaaaaiiiiiins.


Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley went rifling around through some old brains to find out what the differences in gene activity between male and female brains were. They compared the "transcriptome" — a set of RNA molecules that indicate the activity of genes within a population of cells — of 55 male and female brains of different ages and found, much to their collective chagrin, that the pattern of gene activation and deactivation that occurs with aging seemed to occur faster in women than in men.

Overall, men seem to hasten to their mortality's logical conclusion faster than women, so researcher Mehmet Somel was a little surprised to find that the male brain seemed to age slower than the female brain. Not all organs age at the same rate, however, so the surprise, presumably, soon wore off. Somel and his team compared the expression of over 13,000 genes in four brain regions, finding in the superior frontal cortex that 667 genes expressed themselves differently in aging men and women, with 98 percent on a speedier ageing monorail in women.

Many of these changes have been linked to cognitive decline and degenerative diseases, though the researchers noted that the changes were not uniform among all women, meaning that environmental rather than strictly biological causes were probably at play. Somel explained that "a higher stress load could be driving the female brain towards faster ageing-related decline," and pointed to his team's work with monkeys, where stress seemed to induce similar changes in the transcriptome.

Cyndi Shannon Weickert from Neuroscience Researcher in Sydney says that the Berkeley team's study is fine and everything, it's just that the connection between aging female brains and excess stress is really speculative. It could be stress that's making the lady-brain wear away like an old penny, or it could be inflammation, which could lead to similar genetic changes. This much is certain, however: scientific certainty and consensus remains as elusive as the mysterious dancing walrus.

Stress may cause women's brains to age prematurely [NewScientist]

Image via eurobanks/Shutterstock.



Proof that men use their brains less?