A recent study from Taiwan adds more to the growing body of evidence that suggests women experience a significantly more difficult time to recover from concussions, especially with concern to their memory.
No one knows why the brains of females respond differently to brain injuries compared to their male counterparts, but experts believe it may be related with difference in male and female brains or the ways men and women are injured.
Nonetheless, “you cannot treat women like you treat men,” stated neuropsychologist Dave Ellemberg, associate professor at the University of Montreal. “But in the field of the management of brain injuries, everyone is managed the same. The data mainly comes from men, and the management programs are all based on evidence that comes from them.”
Past research has shown that women are more likely to experience prolonged recoveries from brain injuries and may experience concussions at higher rates than men playing similar sports.
The study, published in the journal Radiology was conducted by scientists at Taipei Medical University Shuang-Ho Hospital in New Taipei City, led by Dr. Chi-Jen Chen. For the study, the team scanned the brains of 30 men and 30 women using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Half of the participants had experienced mild traumatic brain injuries from sports, car crashes, falls, and assaults. Each person was scanned a month after their injuries and again six weeks later.
The first round of scans showed that the sections of the brain related to “working memory” were more active in brain-injured men and less-active in brain-injured women when compared to their uninjured peers.
“Working memory is short-term memory,” Steven Broglio, a brain researcher and director of the NeuroSport Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, explained to Medical Xpress. “For example, remembering the price of something when you take it off the shelf and to the register at a store.”
By the second scan six weeks later, the men with brain injuries appeared to have returned to normal, but the females with brain injuries still showed decreased function in the areas devoted to working memory.
“We know women have higher brain injury rates and longer recoveries, but we aren’t entirely sure why,” said Broglio, who was not involved with the study. One theory is that women have weaker muscles in the neck that are a factor in how head injuries affect them. Another theory suggests that women are more likely to report brain injuries and to tell doctors about ongoing symptoms, he said.