Rats offer clues to women's coping skills

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Why do women seem better than men at coping with social isolation? Rodents may have the answer.

Female rats demonstrated a better stress response to social isolation compared to their male counterparts in a recent study. Just two or three weeks after being subjected to isolation and a brief period of physical stress, male rates showed a slower inflammatory response than female rates when injected with a foreign body.

The inflammatory response is the body's initial, fundamental immune reaction to bacteria, viruses and other invaders. Senior author Martha McClintock noted that the inflammatory response "not only is at the heart of autoimmune diseases but also is involved in cancer, heart disease, infectious disease -- just a whole variety of problems."

The report appears in a publication from the American Journal of Physiology.