Researchers at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge have discovered that women have warmer brains than men, and their temperatures are more likely to top 40 degrees Celsius.
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They stated that this temperature difference could be due to the menstrual cycle. Researchers came up with this result as they scanned most women in the post-ovulation phase and found that their brain temperature was around 0.4 degrees Celsius warmer than the women who were scanned in the pre-ovulation phase.
For the study, researchers selected 40 volunteers, aged between 20 to 40, who were scanned in the morning, afternoon and late evening of a single day at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Researchers also produced the first 4D map of healthy brain temperature. They found that the average temperature was higher than previously thought at 38.5C, while the temperature of the mouth was less than 37C. But the temperature of deeper brain structures was more than 40C. The highest observed brain temperature was 40.9 degrees Celsius. The study showed that the brain temperatures were lowest at night and highest in the afternoon.
These high temperatures are considered a fever in the body, but the researchers suggested they could be a sign of healthy brain function.
The study revealed that the temperature of the brain increases with the increase in age. This increase was most notable in the deeper parts of the brain where the average increase was 0.6 degrees Celsius. Researchers said the brain’s capacity to cool down might worsen with age.
The researchers also surveyed patients with brain injury and found a strong relationship between survival and daily brain temperature cycles. Their findings could help improve understanding, prognosis and treatment of brain injury.
“To me, the most surprising finding from our study is that the healthy human brain can reach temperatures that would be diagnosed as fever anywhere else in the body. Such high temperatures have been measured in people with brain injuries in the past, but had been assumed to result from the injury,” said John O’Neill, a Group Leader at the MRC laboratory.
“There is good reason to believe this daily variation is associated with long-term brain health — something we hope to investigate next.”
The detailed study has been published in the journal Brain.
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