Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why we fight: Men check out in stressful situations, while women show increased brain coordination when looking at angry faces

Date:
September 28, 2010
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Turns out the silent and stoic response to stress might be a guy thing after all. A new study reveals that stressed men looking at angry faces had diminished activity in the brain regions responsible for understanding others' feelings.

A new study by USC researchers reveals that stressed men looking at angry faces had diminished activity in the brain regions responsible for understanding others' feelings.

Related Articles


Turns out the silent and stoic response to stress might be a guy thing after all.

"These are the first findings to indicate that sex differences in the effects of stress on social behavior extend to one of the most basic social transactions -- processing someone else's facial expression," said Mara Mather, director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC.

In an article appearing the October 6 issue of the journal NeuroReport, Mather and her coauthors present a series of tests indicating that, under acute stress, men had less brain response to facial expressions, in particular, fear and anger.

In both men and women, looking at pictures of faces caused activity in the part of the brain used in basic visual processing (the "fusiform face area") and in parts of the brain used for interpreting and understanding facial expressions.

However, men under acute stress showed decreased activity not only in the fusiform face area but also decreased coordination among parts of the brain that help us interpret what emotions these faces are conveying.

In a marked sex difference, women under stress showed the opposite -- women under stress had increased activity in the fusiform face area and increased coordination among the regions of the brain used in interpreting facial emotions compared to the control group.

Cortisol levels, a known indication of stress, were manipulated using the cold pressor stress test, with no significant sex differences in baseline cortisol or degree of cortisol change.

Men and women under stress were as adept as those in the control group at remembering the faces.

"The study indicates that experiencing acute stress can affect subsequent activity and interactions in brain regions in opposite ways for males and females," said Mather, associate professor of gerontology and psychology in the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

"Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support," Mather said.

Prior research has shown the crucial role of the insula in helping us simulate the experiences of others, while the temporal pole has been shown to be important for understanding the emotions of others. Both are part of a known circuit -- along with the inferior frontal region and the amygdala -- that contribute to empathy and social understanding.

The study looked at forty-seven right-handed non-smokers. All participants were asked to refrain from exercise or caffeine in the hour before the study and none of the participants were on hormone birth control or steroid medications.

Nichole Lighthall and Lin Nga of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and Marissa Gorlick of the University of Texas also contributed to the study, which was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mara Mather, Nichole R. Lighthall, Lin Nga, Marissa A. Gorlick. Sex differences in how stress affects brain activity during face viewing. NeuroReport, 2010; 21 (14): 933 DOI: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32833ddd92

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Why we fight: Men check out in stressful situations, while women show increased brain coordination when looking at angry faces." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928135056.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2010, September 28). Why we fight: Men check out in stressful situations, while women show increased brain coordination when looking at angry faces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928135056.htm
University of Southern California. "Why we fight: Men check out in stressful situations, while women show increased brain coordination when looking at angry faces." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928135056.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Researchers at University of Texas at Austin found a link between binge-watching TV shows and feelings of loneliness and depression. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

BuzzFeed (Jan. 28, 2015) "No, I&apos;m not mad. Why, are you mad?" Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins