AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020


Traumatic Brain Injuries Leave Women Prone to Mental Health Problems

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Traumatic brain injuries affect the body’s stress axis differently in female and male mice, according to research. The results could help explain why women who experience blast injuries face a greater risk of developing mental health problems than men. About 1.5 million people are diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. Blast injuries are particularly common in the military population. Between 15 percent and 30 percent of soldiers who experience a TBI are later diagnosed with neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even though men are more likely to experience a TBI, women have an elevated risk of developing mental health disorders due to the injury. The study examined how blast injuries disrupt the stress axis, specifically the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a signaling pathway involved in the body’s stress response. The hormones produced by the glands in the stress axis affect parts of the brain involved in regulating fear and anxiety.

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