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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 5026713, 14 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/5026713
Review Article

Gender Differences in the Neurobiology of Anxiety: Focus on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis

1Translational Neurobiology Unit, Laboratory of Panic and Respiration, Institute of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Avenida Venceslau Brás, 71 Fundos, Praia Vermelha, 22290-140 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
2Physics Institute, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Avenida Athos da Silveira Ramos, Cidade Universitária, 21941-916 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
3Laboratory of Adult Neurogenesis and Mental Health, Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London SE5 9RT, UK

Received 18 September 2015; Revised 30 November 2015; Accepted 6 December 2015

Academic Editor: Long-Jun Wu

Copyright © 2016 Alessandra Aparecida Marques et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Although the literature reports a higher incidence of anxiety disorders in women, the majority of basic research has focused on male rodents, thus resulting in a lack of knowledge on the neurobiology of anxiety in females. Bridging this gap is crucial for the design of effective translational interventions in women. One of the key brain mechanisms likely to regulate anxious behavior is adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN). This review paper aims to discuss the evidence on the differences between male and female rodents with regard to anxiety-related behavior and physiology, with a special focus on AHN. The differences between male and female physiologies are greatly influenced by hormonal differences. Gonadal hormones and their fluctuations during the estrous cycle have often been identified as agents responsible for sexual dimorphism in behavior and AHN. During sexual maturity, hormone levels fluctuate cyclically in females more than in males, increasing the stress response and the susceptibility to anxiety. It is therefore of great importance that future research investigates anxiety and other neurophysiological aspects in the female model, so that results can be more accurately applicable to the female population.