Severe depression affects women and men differently, scientists may have finally found reason

Researchers may have finally found a reason as to why severe depression affects women and men differently through a study wherein they examined the brains of people with depression at the time of death.

In the study published in Nature Communications scientists have said that they discovered alterations located in different parts of the brain for each sex and this could provide clues as to why severe depression affects men and women differently. Scientists have also identified a potential depression biomarker in women.

Depression is twice as common in women and notably the symptoms are different, and the response to antidepressants is not the same as in men.

Previous studies have shown that prolonged social stress in male mice weakened the blood-brain barrier separating the brain from peripheral blood circulation. These changes were due to the loss of a protein called claudin-5 and were evident in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain associated with reward and the control of emotions. The researchers found the same thing in the brains of men suffering from depression at the time of their death.

When researchers repeated the experiment in female mice, they found that the brain barrier alterations caused by claudin-5 loss were located in the prefrontal cortex. Their findings were the same when they examined the brains of women suffering from depression at the time of their death. In men, however, the blood-brain barrier of the prefrontal cortex was not affected.

Researchers explain that the prefrontal cortex is involved in mood regulation, but also in anxiety and self-perception. In chronically stressed male mice and in men with depression, this part of the brain was unaltered. These findings suggest that chronic stress alters the brain barrier differently according to gender.

As they investigated further, the researchers discovered a blood marker linked to brain barrier health. The marker, soluble E-selectin, is an inflammatory molecule found at higher concentrations in the blood of stressed female mice. It is also present in blood samples of women with depression, but not in men.

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