“On Periods: Let’s put this shit to bed right now: Women don’t lose their minds when they have period-related irritability. It doesn’t lower their ability to reason; it lowers their patience and, hence, tolerance for bullshit. If an issue comes up a lot during “that time of the month,” that doesn’t mean she only cares about it once a month; it means she’s bothered by it all the time and lacks the capacity, once a month, to shove it down and bury it beneath six gulps of willful silence.”
It’s not just humans who get irritable because of their cycles, and it’s not a matter of going crazy. It’s a matter of brain chemistry.
Schneider and Popik (2007) took female rats and put them in a cage with marbles to test their emotional state. Rats naturally tend to bury new or unfamiliar objects, especially if they’re threatening, but rats that are given Prozac or other drugs for mood disorders spend less time burying marbles in this task.
The researchers followed the rats’ reproductive cycles and found that some of them (about 30%) buried a lot more marbles when their hormone levels were lowest. In humans, this happens when we have our periods, or right before. The researchers then gave these females antidepressants, anxiety medication, or progesterone (a hormone). All of these lowered the number of marbles buried, including the hormone treatment.
Hormone levels can change the connections in your brain by making the branches of your brain cells more or less spiny:
Each of those little nubbins is a place where this cell can connect to another one. The one on the left is from a cell without estrogen, while the one on the right is a cell after estrogen treatment three days earlier. (Hormones are very powerful at changing a cell’s shape because they make changes to the way DNA gets read.)
The more connections between brain cells, the stronger the signal, and the more they can affect one another. With lower levels of hormones, your brain may not be able to say “Hey, chill out” to itself the same way it does during the rest of your cycle.
This is pretty damn incredible, you guys. Traditional histology (making slides of slices of tissue) has a lot of limitations when it comes to studying the brain.
- You run the risk of over- or under-estimating the number of target cells if sections are sliced too thick or too thin (like trying to guess how many raisins are in a loaf of bread but you can only look at the top of your toast). You often have to also count those fuckers by HAND.
- If you’re trying to track the paths of chemicals going from one place to another, you have to painstakingly assemble maps based on cross-section views you can only look at in one direction.
- The shapes of neurons have to be inferred from two-dimensional slices, when often they branch in a number of directions like a tree or bush.
- Once you stain tissue for histology, that’s usually it. Most people separate the slices into four or five samples (so they can stain every five slices for estrogen, for example) but if you screw up the staining or want to look at more than that many chemicals, you’re out of luck.
The inventor says he fried or melted “hundreds” of brains trying to get it to work. I’m sure that as this technique gains popularity, manufacturers will begin making and selling equipment that makes the process easier. Amazing.
I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m back. Been studying for my anatomy final, and all I can think about is how Schwann cells and Oligodendrocytes are our cellular fangirls.
I like to think of oligodendrocytes as like that grandmother who knits scarves for fucking EVERYBODY.
(This website is great. Cute little comics about biology, and therefore relevant to my interests.)
Which means writing, in nearly excruciating detail, all of the methods that I used.
The quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qrt-PCR) section is a fucking beast, because it’s three solid days of work between
- extracting RNA from the samples and quantifying it
- synthesizing cDNA from those same samples
- multiplying and quantifying the target mRNA
I admit, I feel a little like a badass.
Here’s a thing that you should do if you’re a professor at an academic conference: listen to your colleagues’ presentations and meet new friends, possibly for future professional collaboration…
Dude, I was totally at that conference. All I’m saying.
I’m thinking of just queueing up blurbs from my notes so you can get a steady stream throughout your day.
Please keep it in mind when you see headlines like “men have larger spatial reasoning centers” or “women show more activity in empathy centers”, etc. Because of our gonadal hormone differences, the processes involved in performing the same actions may need to be wildly different.
They do not necessarily imply superiority/inferiority, or even innate, permanent differences!