Researchers have revealed that estrogen plays a crucial role in the sexual development of a woman. It also has the additional function of protecting the brain from any kind of trauma.
The findings of the research further suggest that the estrogen level is directly linked with the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Experts have shared that that low estrogen levels play a vital role in making women susceptible to developing PTSD. The stress could arise at any point in case of menstrual cycles or traumatic events in one's lifetime.
The phases of trauma could be flashbacks of the menstrual cycle episode such as the mid-luteal phase when the body produces more progesterone and less estrogen.
After several studies were conducted, it was concluded that women who had high levels of estrogen may be protected from any such stress disorder.
Interestingly, investigators at Emory University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School have found new insights into how gene activity in the brain gets affected by estrogen.
According to the study, estrogen alters the gene activity in the brain which indirectly achieves the required protective effects.
The research team approached women of the childbearing and menopausal ages who had undergone violence and abuse. On their willing participation, the scientists collected their blood samples which was followed by an interview.
During pregnancy, the estrogen level fluctuates depending upon their menstrual cycle whereas menopausal and postmenopausal women have lower estrogen level.
While assessing DNA methylation, studies have found that the gene methylation was higher in PTSD patients rather than others. Higher levels of methylation indicated lower estradiol. Therefore it is linked with the fear response of women.
"We knew that estrogen affects the activity of many genes throughout the genome," said Alicia Smith, a researcher at Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
Professor Smith also mentioned that these results led to estrogen being used as a preventive treatment which could possibly reduce the PTSD risk in the post traumatic phase.
Also, it is interesting to note that estrogen has the ability to alter any sort of pain perception. The research does not limit its findings to women alone. Scientists have also researched on how testosterone is converted to estrogen in the male brain where the key development takes place.
The journal Molecular Psychiatry published the recent findings where researchers have discussed certain preventive treatments aimed at reducing the PTSD prone risks.
Photo: Raelene Gutierrez | Flickr