Sexual Violence Might Reshape the Female Brain
A recent study published in Scientific Reports found that sexual aggression from older male rats not only boosted the production of stress hormones in pubescent females, but it also disrupted their ability to learn various behaviors, including those needed to care for offspring. Females that struggled with maternal behaviors also had poorer survival of newly generated neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial in memory and learning.
Women tend to be more sensitive to stress than men. Study lead author Tracey Shors of Rutgers University has wondered whether stress specifically from sexual violence changes the brain and learning in females. Despite growing openness to talking about sexual violence, “certainly it hasn’t been studied at a scientific level,” she says. “What does that actually do to the female brain?”