Brains of anxious girls work harder than boys: Study
This electrode cap was worn by participants in a Michigan State University psychology study that suggests anxious girls' brains work harder than boys'. (Michigan State University handout/QMI Agency)
A new study has found the brains of anxious girls work harder than boys, particularly when they make a mistake during a task.
Researchers say this finding may help determine if girls are prone to problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.
"This may help predict the development of anxiety issues later in life for girls," lead researcher Jason Moser said in a release Tuesday. "It's one more piece of the puzzle for us to figure out why women in general have more anxiety disorders."
In an experiment, participants were asked to wear a cap with electrodes to measure brain activity then were asked to do a task. If they made a mistake, the girls who were considered anxious or big worriers recorded high brain activity.
"Anxious girls' brains have to work harder to perform tasks because they have distracting thoughts and worries," the Michigan State University researcher said. "As a result, their brains are being kind of burned out by thinking so much, which might set them up for difficulties in school. We already know that anxious kids - and especially anxious girls - have a harder time in some academic subjects such as math."
Moser and other MSU researchers are now investigating whether estrogen, a hormone mainly in women, may be to blame for the increased brain response.
The study appears in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.