University of Lethbridge researchers studying differences between biological sexes

Gender equality has come a long way, but when it comes to scientific research, studies inclusive of biologically female subjects have lagged behind.

But a pair of University of Lethbridge researchers — Dr. Jamshid Faraji and Dr. Gerlinde Metz of the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience — are focusing on biological sex differences.

“We are really, really concerned with the sex differences,” Faraji explained.

Biologically, the main differences taken into account between male and female bodies have usually been hormone-related — until now.

“This is the first time we’re showing that thermal response to stress in rodents is completely independent of their neuroendocrine responses,” Faraji said.

Faraji and Metz have conducted gentle stress tests on male and female rodents that show significant differences in how each sex responds to stress and what could equate to anxiety disorders.

“Female mice are showing those kinds of hyperthermia, which is very similar to a fever profile of young women in clinical situations,” said Faraji.

Female body temperatures show a significant increase under stress while the temperatures of male subjects remain cooler.

The discovery shows that the brain’s significant impact on bodily symptoms can differ greatly between male and female anatomies.

It also means more studies can be done less invasively.

Faraji believes the findings could lead to more effective diagnoses down the road.

“If you use this kind of advanced technology, it will give you a kind of complementary picture of changes in clinical populations,” he said.

“So in addition to those kinds of traditional diagnostic tools, these images definitely will help you to enhance your accuracy.”

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