Another Difference Between Men and Women… Found On Autopsy

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Last week I wrote to you about a new medical study that shows how women and men have different cardiac responses to stress.

This week, yet another difference between men and women… this time, in the brain.



Turns out, on autopsy, investigators found that there was a distinct difference between the brains of men and women in depression.

There are lots of differences between depression in men and women, as we already know.

These results may help explain why. It turns out, the brain literally re-wires differently during depression depending on if you are male or female:

  • Women are three times more likely to have atypical depression (depression that causes weight gain and increased sleep)
  • Women are twice as likely to have an episode of depression and four times more likely to have recurrent depression than men (this is thought to be because of a protective mechanism of testosterone on the brain.)
  • Women also have more clinically severe depressive episodes than men.
  • Men are more likely to have a substance abuse disorder along with their depression, and are more likely to commit suicide than women.


The Study, published in Biological Psychiatry on Feb 3, 2018:

  • Researchers looked at autopsy brain samples in 100 patients — 50 who had been diagnosed with major depression and 50 sex-matched controls with no history of depression.
  • Researchers looked at the genetic make up of three different regions of the brain typically affected by depression: the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex and the basolateral amygdala.


The Results:

  • In the sex-matched controls (with no history of depression) the 73 genes researchers studied were exactly the same in both men and women, with no difference in genetic expression between the sexes.
  • In patients with major depression, there was a huge difference in gene expression — a 71% difference between men and women in gene expression!
  • In the vast majority of genes (52 out of the 73 looked at) expression of genes changed in opposite ways for both men and women.
  • Only 21 out of the 73 affected both depressed men and women in the same way (only 29% of the genes remained the same between men and women.)
  • In men, there were increased markers of inflammation (not so for the women.)
  • In women, there was a decrease in immunity (not so for the men.)


The Bottom Line:


Mens brains tended to change to create increased inflammation,

women’s brains tended to change to reduce immune response.


So in depressed individuals, it seems that the men become more reactive/inflammatory and the women become more susceptible/decreased immunity.


This to me mirrors the sex differences in heart function when the cardiac system is under stress…

…men tended to have higher demands on the heart and cardiac output (and higher blood pressure too!) and women tended to have restricted perfusion and decreased blood flow through capillaries.


Heart or brain:

men become pressured and inflamed,

women become decreased and suppressed.


Why do men become activated/agitated and women become deactivated/decreased in function during illness and stress?

And what other organ systems should be looking at to see a difference?

Probably the GI tract, hormones, adrenal, liver, kidney function and more.



And this is important because we can now start to tailor treatments to help really target and promote healing during stress, illness, depression.

Taken together, these studies suggest that men would be most helped by targeting inflammation and stress management treatments, while women might be most helped by immune boosting and circulation boosting therapies.


For example, perhaps men might benefit more from:

  • lowering blood pressure with supplements
  • decreasing inflammation through grounding
  • and stress reduction techniques of meditation, acupuncture and yoga.


While women, with the same heart disease or depressive episodes that men have, might benefit more from:

  • supplements that target boosting immunity
  • therapies that heal leaky gut and other autoimmune pathways
  • along with exercises designed to boost circulation and perfusion like walking, aerobic exercise, hot yoga, even deep tissue massage.


This is just one example of countless different treatment plans that you and your physician could come up with, targeting specific pathways that are unique to you now that we know a little more about the sex differences between men and women.


Want even more holistic help for depression?

Hop over to these are articles I’ve written for you:



To your innate healing…

xoxoxo, Laura