File this under (duh-but-it’s-great-to-have-science-to-back-up-what-we-knew!) : A new study reveals gender-based differences in the brain’s response to stress and social behavior. Men and women who looked at facial expressions, primarily anger and fear, both showed activity in the part of the brain associated with basic visual processing. However, under acute stress (using the cold pressor stress test), the men showed a decrease in this activity as well as diminished capacity to interpret and understand the emotional expressions. (hmmmmm….)

On the contrary, under stress, women showed an increase in both brain activity and the ability to coordinate the parts of the brain used to understand and interpret the expressions.

Lead researcher, Mather, concludes: “Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support.”

The bottom line: When your husband tunes out during an argument, it may be due to how he is wired and this requires new strategies for conflict resolution.

Reference: Mara Mather, Nichole R. Lighthall, Lin Nga, Marissa A. Gorlick. Sex differences in how stress affects brain activity during face viewing. NeuroReport, 2010; 21 (14): 933

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