Why do women and men feel pain differently?
Why do women and men feel pain differently? How do naturally fluctuating estrogen levels affect the experience of pain? How do they affect memory? Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan has used positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to investigate how men and women differ in the activation of an innate pain-relief circuit, the mu-opioid neurotransmitter system. His group has previously shown that during periods of low estrogen (such as shortly after menstruation), women were less able to activate this endogenous â€œanti-painâ€ system, and reported higher pain levels than men. Zubieta has now found that when estrogen levels are high (accomplished with an estrogen patch), womenâ€™s opioid system responses were equal to or exceeded those of men. â€œEstrogen modulates the brainâ€™s pain-suppression system, allowing it to become more active when necessary,â€ Zubieta says, which suggests that pain is â€œa more complex phenomenon in women.â€ Females may require this â€œflexibilityâ€ in pain control for situations such as pregnancy, recent birth, or menstrual fluctuations. For example, at the end of human pregnancy, estrogen levels may be 100 times normal; these levels may â€œtune upâ€ the pain relief circuit to better counteract pain. At the same time, there are suggestions from animal studies that high estrogen levels may also â€œtune downâ€ certain kinds of memory. An overactive opioid system, for example, can decrease the ability to retrieve information from memory (â€œrecall memoryâ€). Studies in deer mice by Liisa Galea of the University of British Columbia have found that high estrogen levels impair working memory, while low estrogen levels facilitate it. Whether this is natureâ€™s way of ensuring that females donâ€™t swear off childbirth, by revving up the brain to both suppress pain and â€œforgetâ€ it, is an open question. More practically, this research may lead to an understanding of why women are at greater risk for certain pain syndromes and how pain medications might need adjustment based on womenâ€™s menstrual cycles.
pain, estrogen, oestrogen, PET, positron, emission, tomography, gender, sex, mu opioid, imaging, neuroimaging
- ID: 860
- Source: DNALC.G2C
A review of neuroimaging-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.
Professor Trevor Robbins discusses how positron emission tomography (PET) works to provide detailed images of brain structure and chemistry.
Professor Daniel Weinberger describes how neuroimaging techniques are being used to examine the brains of schizophrenic patients.
Professor Wayne Drevets explains how positron emission tomography (PET) is used to examine biochemicals in the brain such as serotonin.
It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. What is it and how is it treated?
Electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings measure electrical activity in the brain that is the result of electrochemical signaling between neurons.
Neuroimaging techniques help scientists visualize Alzheimer's disease before the disease becomes debilitating.
The placebo effect is a beneficial health effect experienced by an individual that appears to occur because of the individual’s beliefs or expectations, rather than by effecting chemical or biological changes.
Bridging the gap between descriptions of human behaviors and underlying neural events has been a dream of both psychologists and neuroscientists for quite some time.
The Dana Review summarizes emergent issues in the area of neuroethics.