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Sex & Mood Disorders

November 23, 2011

Researchers are studying how female and male rats respond differently to stress in order to shed light on why women are disproportionately affected by mood disorders.



Sex differences in mood disorders…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The most important risk factor for developing a mood disorder like depression or anxiety is having been abused or neglected as a child. Women suffer from mood disorders more often than men, and researchers are trying to tease out why. Georgia State University behavioral neuroendocrinologist Brad Cooke and his colleagues raised male and female rats. At 28 days of age, they were bullied by aggressive adult males. Several weeks later when the young rats were fully grown, Cooke’s team assessed their behavior and stress hormone levels.

BRAD COOKE (Georgia State University):

We found that there was a sex-specific response to the abuse. Females had significantly elevated levels of stress hormones relative to their controls as well as relative to the males.


They also displayed more behavioral signs of anxiety and

depression. Cooke says understanding how women and men respond differently to abuse could help lead to the development of sex-specific treatments for mood disorders. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.