Sex differences in Stress Regulation of Arousal and Cognition
Dr. Debra Bangasser
August 24 at 12:20pm in the Fralin Auditorium, Fralin Hall room 102
Hosted by Sarah Clinton
As principle investigator of the Neuroendocrinology and Behavior Laboratory, Dr. Bangasser uses techniques from behavioral neuroscience, neuroendocrinology, and cellular and molecular biology to identify neurobiological factors that contribute to sex differences in stress responses. Specifically, her research program explores mechanisms by which stress can confer female vulnerability to hyperarousal and male vulnerability to cognitive deficits. Dr. Bangasser has authored numerous publications in top journals including Nature Neuroscience and Molecular Psychiatry. She is a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, American Psychological Association, International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, Organization for the Study of Sex Differences, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, and Society for Neuroscience. Her research is has been funded by both the National Institute of Mental Health and National Science Foundation.
There are sex differences in the prevalence and presentation of many psychiatric disorders. For example, posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression are more common in women than men, and women with these disorders present with more hyperarousal symptoms than men. In contrast, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia are more common in men than women, and men with these disorders have increased cognitive deficits compared to women. A shared feature of the aforementioned psychiatric disorders is the contribution of stressful events to their onset and/or severity. In this talk, I will present basic research findings that reveal that sex differences in stress responses that can bias females towards hyperarousal and males towards cognitive deficits. Specifically, I will discuss sex differences in stress receptor signaling and trafficking in the locus coeruleus-arousal center that can render female rodents more sensitivity to hyperarousal. I will also describe recent work from the lab revealing that stress hormones and chronic stress impair cognitive processes mediated by the cholinergic basal forebrain to a greater degree in male than female rats. Finally, I will detail how evaluating sex-specific mechanisms for responding to stress in female and male rodents can lead to better treatments for stress-related psychiatric disorders.