News Stories

Men Feel Less Pain

We assume men become boxers, firefighters, soldiers, etc. because of their superior strength. But it may also be because males are better at tolerating pain than females. It turns out there are major differences in how the sexes perceive pain.

A protein called GIRK2 plays a major role in pain sensation and drug sensitivity in males but is not as important in females. Removing GIRK2 makes men and women equal in their ability to withstand pain.

Researchers uncovered the sex difference by accident, while researching the effects of specific pain medications on mice. They compared normal mice with mice whose GIRK2 gene was "knocked out." Without painkillers, males without GIRK2 were less able to withstand pain, but had the same pain tolerance as female mice.

Almost all the pain-killing drugs they tested activated GIRK2 in males, but still worked on females, although not as well. This means women may have a different, undiscovered, mechanism for tolerating pain, and more research could lead to specific painkillers for women.

Music heals both sexes equally, and Steven Halpern composes his music especially to heal.

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