The way the brain responds to stress is different for girls and boys. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, when put under pressure, women’s brains have to work harder than men's in order to perform at the same capacity.
To test the theory, researchers recruited 79 female and 70 male college students and asked them to identify the middle letter in a group of five letters. As they proceeded with the mental exercise,the study authors checked their brain activity via an electrode cap. Afterward, they completed a survey, which asked them how much they worried during the exercise. According to the results, both female and male students received the same scores. There were key differences in brain activity, however. Women tended to make more mistakes as the items became harder. Whenever they made mistakes, their brain activity also soared compared to the brain activity of the men.
According to Jason Moser, lead researcher of the study and assistant professor of psychology, feelings of anxiety may be distracting the female participants from doing their best. In an effort to compensate, their brains had to work harder. Researchers believe that estrogen may have an effect on the release of dopamine—a neurotransmitter essential in processing mistakes.
While women may be predisposed to respond to stress in a certain way, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do to get a better handle on the situation. To improve concentration and reduce anxiety, researchers suggest letting emotions out in the form of journal writing. Training the brain via mind busters is also a fun way to improve your reaction to stress. Managing your time wisely so as to reduce your day-to-day stress should also help.
(Photo by Sewanee: The University of the South via Flickr Creative Commons)