Trauma can cause differences in the brain between males and females. (Source: Tribune News Service)

It seems that when it comes to traumatic experiences, not everyone will experience them the same way.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have now found one reason why female youth and male youth are not impacted the same by trauma.

The study, published online on Nov. 11 in the journal “Depression and Anxiety,” noted that the key difference was found within the insula of the brain, which is responsible for integrating feelings, actions, emotions and empathy.

Victor Carrion, MD and the study’s senior author, said the results of the research found differences between the insula in male brains versus female brains in youth who have been exposed to traumatic situations.

According to Carrion, the insula may play a key role in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

While not all youth who experience trauma will develop PTSD, those who do can experience flashbacks, poor sleep, avoidance of social situations and trouble concentrating.

In total, the study used 59 female and male participants between the ages of nine and 17, all of which had similar IQs. Roughly half of the participants showed signs of trauma, while the other half, the control group, did not.

The insulas in the males and females in the control group showed no differences. However, among the participants in the study who had been exposed to trauma, researchers found a difference in a region of the insula called the anterior circular sulcus.

The males who had experienced trauma had a larger volume and surface area in this portion of the brain when compared to the males who had not experienced trauma. Conversely, the females who were exposed to trauma had a smaller volume and surface area in this portion of the brain when compared to the females who had not experienced trauma.

“It is important that people who work with traumatized youth consider the sex differences,” Megan Klabunde, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, said. “Our findings suggest it is possible that boys and girls could exhibit different trauma symptoms and that they might benefit from different approaches to treatment.”

Researchers believe that this information about trauma in male and female youths could help clinicians and scientists create sex-specific treatments for those impacted by trauma.

Moving forward, researchers said they hope to continue conducting studies over a longer period of time to help them better understand their current findings. They also plan to further study the different ways in which PTSD exhibits itself in males versus females.

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