Past studies have shown that traumatized teenage girls are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than their male counterparts, but until this week, scientists didn’t understand why. The Stanford University School of Medicine published a study revealing that a part of the brain called the insula is physically different in teenage girls who manifest symptoms of PTSD.
“Among youth with post-traumatic stress disorder, the study found structural differences between the sexes in one part of the insula, a brain region that detects cues from the body and processes emotions and empathy. The insula helps to integrate one’s feelings, actions and several other brain functions.”
According to Dr. Victor Carrion, the study’s senior author:
“The insula appears to play a key role in the development of PTSD… The difference we saw between the brains of boys and girls who have experienced psychological trauma is important because it may help explain differences in trauma symptoms between sexes.”
In the study, traumatized teens exhibited differences in a part of the insula compared to the non-traumatized control group. “This brain region had larger volume and surface area in traumatized boys than in boys in the control group. In addition, the region’s volume and surface area were smaller in girls with trauma than among girls in the control group,” the report reads.
Dr. Megan Klabunde, who is the lead author on the study, explains, “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.”