New study suggests women forget pain while men hang on to it (and freak out!)

Sick man in bed

Today in science comes the news that men seem to respond differently to pain than women, for a very surprising reason.

Remember the bad times?

Researchers found that memory plays a role in how men process the ouchies, with men’s memory of pain influencing how they handle future pain.

They stumbled across this phenomenon in male mice and wondered if human men would also process anticipated future pain based on previous experiences of being hurt. 

The research compared men’s response to pain with women’s under the same conditions. The test subjects were given a ‘pain test’ in a specific room. They then endured a second test in the same room the next day.

“When (and only when) they were taken into the same room as in the previous test, the men rated the heat pain higher than they did the day before, and higher than the women did,” Medical Xpress reports.

“Similarly, male, but not female mice returning to the same environment exhibited a heightened heat pain response, while mice placed in a new and neutral environment did not.”


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Stress adds to men’s pain (but not women’s)

The research team suggest that the men’s anticipation of pain sparked a stress response which caused greater sensitivity to pain.

“There was no reason to expect it would be specific to males. That came as a complete surprise,” senior author on the study Dr Jeffrey Mogil who is a professor of psychology at McGill University said.

The findings are important because they may help treat chronic pain in more effective ways – perhaps even taking different approaches to pain in men and women.

“I think it is appropriate to say that further study of this extremely robust phenomenon might give us insights that may be useful for future treatment of chronic pain, and I don’t often say that!” Dr Mogil explained. “One thing is for sure, after running this study, I’m not very proud of my gender.”

So there you have it. One wonders if this is why the so-called very upsetting-to-gents Man Flu might exist? They’ve been there before and are very worried about going there again, thus they feel super crap when they do?

Whatever the truth, we look forward to finding out more about why there is a marked difference in how each sex responds to pain.

(Perhaps women are built differently because women have babies and need to ‘forget’ how much that freaking hurts? Perhaps this difference is so that the species survives?! Just a theory!)

Fascinating stuff!

Read more: “Male-specific conditioned pain hypersensitivity” Current Biology (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.030 , https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)31496-9

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