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Study indicates gender differences in post-stroke depression

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Women are twice more likely than men to experience major depression following stroke, says a University of Iowa College of Medicine researcher in a recent study.

Dr. Sergio Paradiso, a research associate in psychiatry, says that gender-based differences in the brain account for the frequency of women diagnosed with post-stroke depression. Among women with major depression, there is a significant association with lesions in the left hemisphere.

"Gender-based differences in the organization and functioning of the brain have been shown by several investigators. We expected that based on these differences, a brain injury would affect men and women differently," Paradiso says.

The study was done to test a theory about differences in the frequency of major depression. Researchers believed that a brain injury would bring on major depression more frequently in women because females are more likely to develop depression without a visible brain lesion.

Among 301 consecutive admissions for treatment of cerebrovascular injury, women's severity of depression was associated with prior diagnosis of psychiatric disorder and cognitive impairment. Greater severity of depression in men was associated with greater impairment in daily activities and social functioning.

"We hoped that finding different predictors or risk factors in women compared to men would then help to guide treatment options. We are currently beginning to examine the data of a treatment study of post-stroke depression using antidepressant medications," Paradiso says.