Evaluation of gender difference in regional brain metabolic responses to lorazepam

Gene Jack Wang, Nora D. Volkow, Joanna S. Fowler, Robert J. Hitzemann, Naomi R. Pappas, Noelwah Netusil

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16 Scopus citations


Women are prescribed benzodiazepines twice as frequently as men and there is evidence of differences in therapeutic responsiveness to benzodiazepines between genders. In this study we compared the regional brain metabolic response to benzodiazepines between male and female subjects. Sixteen healthy men and 12 healthy women were scanned with positron emission tomography (PET) and [F-18] fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) twice: prior to placebo and prior to lorazepam (30 μg/kg) on separate days. Lorazepam significantly and consistently decreased whole brain metabolism and the magnitude as well as the regional pattern of the changes was comparable for both genders (M = - 4.7 ± 3 and F = -3.9 ± 3.8 μmol/100 g/min). Lorazepam effects were largest in thalamus (-12.5 ± 6.2 and -8.6 ± 7.1 μmol/100 g/min) and occipital cortex (-10.5 ± 5.5 and -10.1 ± 6.6 μmol/100 g/min). Lorazepam-induced changes in 'relative' metabolism were also similar for both genders except for trend differences (0.01 < P < 0.05) in rectal gyrus, where lorazepam increased relative metabolism in women (+4.4 ± 9.9%) whereas it decreased in men (-3.2 ± 8.8%, P < 0.04) and in cerebellum, where lorazepam-induced decrements were larger in women (-5.9 ± 6%) than in men (-1.1% ± 6.6%, P < 0.05). There were no differences between genders for any of the behavioral effects of lorazepam. In summary, this study does not show differences in the response to lorazepam between the genders as assessed by its behavioral effects and the changes in absolute metabolism; the trend toward a difference in the relative changes in rectal gyms and cerebellum merits further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral glucose metabolism
  • Gender
  • Lorazepam
  • Pharmacological challenge


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