LOS ANGELES – In the battle of the sexes, a new study places females in the lead — concluding that they respond better to repeated stress thanks to estrogen.

“It’s kind of a popular view that males and females respond differently to stress,” said University at Buffalo neuroscientist and study co-author Zhen Yan. “Our study offers the molecular mechanism.”

Yan’s group found that female rats stressed out by a week of physical restraint showed no impairment in their ability to remember and recognize objects from a few hours earlier. Young males exposed to the same stress conditions fared worse on the short-term memory test.

But when the researchers manipulated estrogen levels in the brain, female rats respond to stress like males and vice-versa.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.