A recent study has revealed to researchers that depression has differing consequences on the brain activity of male and female patients in certain areas of the brain.
The results imply that teenage girls and boys may undergo depression differently and that treating each gender differently might be useful for adolescents.
When researchers showed the depressed adolescents happy or sad words and did imaging of their brains, they discovered that depression had different effects on the brain activity of male and female teenagers in specific regions of the brain.
Men and women seem to suffer from depression in different ways, and this is especially evident in adolescents. By the age of 15, girls are twice as more expected to suffer from depression as boys.
There could be many reasons for this, including body image issues, changes in levels of hormones or hereditary factors, where girls have more chances of inheriting depression.
However, differences between the sexes is not just restricted to risk of experiencing depression, but also how the disorder displays and its effects.
"Men are more liable to suffer from persistent depression, whereas in women depression tends to be more episodic. Compared with women, depressed men are also more likely to suffer serious consequences from their depression, such as substance abuse and suicide," said Jie-Yu Chuang, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, and an author on the study.
This inspired Chuang and her colleagues to conduct this latest study to find dissimilarities between depressed men and women.
They involved adolescent volunteers for the study, aged between 11 and 18 years. This comprised 82 females and 24 male patients who were depressed, and 24 females and 10 male healthy volunteers.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging on the patient’s brains while blinking happy, sad or neutral words on a screen in a particular order.
The volunteers clicked a button when specific types of words appeared and did not press the button when others were exhibited, and the researchers gauged their brain activity during the experiment.
When the researchers flashed particular mixtures of words on the screen, they observed that depression affected brain activity in different ways in boys and girls in areas of the brain such as regions such as the supramarginal gyrus and posterior cingulate.
"Our finding suggests that early in adolescence, depression might affect the brain differently between boys and girls. Sex-specific treatment and prevention strategies for depression should be considered early in adolescence. Hopefully, these early interventions could alter the disease trajectory before things get worse," explained Chuang.
The brain regions emphasised in the study have been earlier associated with depression, but further work is required to know why they are affected differently in depressed boys, and if this is connected to how boys experience and handle depression. Chuang and her colleagues would like to investigate this phenomenon further.
Chuang concluded by saying, "I think it would be great to conduct a large longitudinal study addressing sex differences in depression from adolescence to adulthood."
The study was published in journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.