Origin of menopausal hot flashes from specific brain areas
Well, it seems that it’s time to bid “baby-making time of the body a goodbye!! It’s the beginning of menopause, women, so get prepared for the irritating hot flashes. Researchers now confirm that there are some specific regions in the brain where the hot flashes originate from.
Often we hear ladies in their middle age complain of hot flashes, sweating, redness of the skin and an increased heart rate. These hot flashes generally pop up during menopause but the scientists are not sure how the brain reacts to them or what exactly causes them. Finally the researchers may get a clue to new treatments for these temporary episodes of sweating, flushing and body warmth.
The research study
Neuroscientists from Wayne State University School of Medicine have suggested that there are some specific areas in the brain where the hot flashes start from. Studying menopausal women, the scientists may have finally got an insight into the neural origins of hot flashes.
The study was spaced out over a year and about 20 healthy women who fell in the age group of 47-58 years who were facing postmenopausal symptoms, made up the research sample and had to undergo scans at the School of Medicine’s Vaitkevicius Imaging Center in Detroit’s Harper University Hospital. These women complained of more than 6 episodes of hot flashes daily.
During the experiment, while the scanning was in process skin conductance levels were gathered by the researchers in order to identify the onset of the hot flashes. The women were given a small current across their chests as they were connected to a simple circuit. This was done to measure the skin conductance that is defined as an electrical evaluation of sweating.
Robert Freedman, the study’s principal investigator, was heard stating “The idea of understanding brain responses during thermoregulatory events has spawned many studies where thermal stimuli were applied to the skin. But hot flashes are unique because they are internally generated, so studying them presents unique challenges.”
The researchers studied the changes in the skin conductance levels and identified the onset of a hot flash. Side by side they analyzed the MRI data in order to study the neural precedents and other correlating data collected from the episode.
Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, study collaborator was excited as he said “Frankly, evidence of fMRI-measured rise in the activity of the brain stem even before women experience a hot flash is a stunning result. When this finding is considered along with the fact that activity in the insula only rises after the experience of the hot flash, we gain some insight on the complexity of brain mechanisms that mediate basic regulatory functions.”
This gives evidence to the specific regions of the brain where the hot flashes originate from. Diwadkar concluded “We think that our study highlights the value of using well-designed fMRI paradigms and analyses in understanding clinically relevant questions.”
This study is published in an Oxford University Press journal called Cerebral Cortex.