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Men, Women React Differently to Danger

MRI Scans Reveal Different Responses to Negative Stimuli
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 3, 2009 (Chicago) -- When faced with danger, men's and women's brains respond differently, say researchers who used MRI scans to look at how we respond to different stimuli.

"Men and women are wired differently, and this is one of the ways," says Andrew Zimmerman, MD, of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, who is familiar with, but not involved in the research.

For the study, researchers analyzed the brain scans of 21 men and 19 women as they looked at a series of images designed to elicit positive or negative emotional states.

When viewing the negative images, men showed more pronounced activity in the area of the brain involved with involuntary functions, including sweating, heart rate, and digestion.

In other words, activation of this area evokes the so-called "fight or flight response," telling men to either face up to or run from danger, says study head Andrzej Urbanik, chair of radiology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

Women, on the other hand, showed more pronounced activity in the left thalamus, which controls the pain and pleasure areas of the brain, meaning that they may react on a more emotional level, the research suggests.

The findings were presented here at the annual meeting of Radiological Society of North America.

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