Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Differences in brain development between males and females may hold clues to mental health disorders

Date:
November 18, 2010
Source:
University of Maryland Medical Center
Summary:
Researchers have discovered differences in the development of the amygdala region of the brain -- which is critical to the expression of emotional and social behaviors -- in animal models that may help to explain why some mental health disorders are more prevalent among boys. They also found a surprising variable -- a difference between males and females in the level of endocannabinoid, a natural substance in the brain that affected their behavior, specifically how they played.

Many mental health disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, produce changes in social behavior or interactions. The frequency and/or severity of these disorders is substantially greater in boys than girls, but the biological basis for this difference between the two sexes is unknown.

Related Articles


Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered differences in the development of the amygdala region of the brain -- which is critical to the expression of emotional and social behaviors -- in animal models that may help to explain why some mental health disorders are more prevalent among boys. They also found a surprising variable -- a difference between males and females in the level of endocannabinoid, a natural substance in the brain that affected their behavior, specifically how they played.

The study results have been published online this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Margaret M. McCarthy, Ph.D., the senior author and a professor of physiology and psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, "Our findings help us to better understand the differences in brain development between males and females that may eventually provide the biologic basis for why some mental health conditions are more prevalent in males. We need to determine if these neural differences in the developing brain that we've seen in rats may cause similar behavioral effects in human babies."

Dr. McCarthy and her colleagues found that female rats have about 30 to 50 percent more glial cells in the amygdala region of the temporal lobe of the brain than their male litter mates. They also found that the females had lower amounts of endocannabinoids, which have been dubbed the brain's own marijuana because they activate cannabinoid receptors that are also stimulated by THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.

Researchers also found that the female rats also played 30 to 40 percent less than male rats. However, when these newborn female rats were given a cannabis-like compound to stimulate their natural endocannabinoid system, their glial cell production decreased and they displayed increased play behavior later as juveniles. In fact, the level of play exhibited by females treated with a cannabis-like compound was very similar to levels in male rats, the researchers found. Yet exposure to this cannabis-like compound did not appear to have any discernible effect on newborn male rats.

Dr. McCarthy, who is also associate dean for Graduate Studies and interim chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, notes, "We have never before seen a sex difference such as this in the developing brain involving cell proliferation in females that is regulated by endocannabinoids."

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president of medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, "The results of this study provide important clues to brain differences between males and females and may increase our knowledge about how these differences may affect both normal and aberrant brain development, thereby enhancing our understanding of many mental health disorders."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Desiree L. Krebs-Kraft, Matthew N. Hill, Cecilia J. Hillard, and Margaret M. Mccarthy. Sex difference in cell proliferation in developing rat amygdala mediated by endocannabinoids has implications for social behavior. PNAS, November 8, 2010 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1005003107

Cite This Page:

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Differences in brain development between males and females may hold clues to mental health disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117121809.htm>.
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2010, November 18). Differences in brain development between males and females may hold clues to mental health disorders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117121809.htm
University of Maryland Medical Center. "Differences in brain development between males and females may hold clues to mental health disorders." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117121809.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
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