When Times are Tough, Female Brains are Tougher

It seems that the battle of the sexes may officially be over — in fact, when it comes to male and female brains, it isn’t 090117-cell-starvation-02even that close a call, at least as far as nature is concerned.  A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health indicates that when it comes to keeping brains alive, nature favors the female brain, hands down. 

From the Live Science report on the study:

Past studies looking at the effect of starvation on animal bodies have been done mostly by looking at nutrient-rich tissues like muscles, fat deposits, and the liver. Robert Clark and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center grew neurons taken from male and female rats or mice in lab dishes, then subjected them to nutrient starvation over 72 hours.

After 24 hours, the male neurons experienced significantly more cell dysfunction. A key indicator called cell respiration decreased by more than 70 percent in male cells compared to 50 percent in female cells. Visually, male neurons showed more signs of autophagy, whereby a cell breaks down its own less vital components to use as a fuel source, while female neurons created more lipid droplets to store fat reserves.

Male neurons basically eat themselves from the inside, the scientists conclude.

The nutrient deprivation “produced cell death more profoundly in neurons from males versus females,” Clark’s team writes in the Jan. 23 issue of Journal of Biological Chemistry. “Thus, during starvation, neurons from males more readily undergo autophagy and die, whereas neurons from females mobilize fatty acids, accumulate triglycerides, form lipid droplets, and survive longer.”

Link to a video about fat and the hungry brain

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