A male suffering the ill effects of 'man flu'.
IT HAS been scorned by women as a sign of male weakness for generations, but ''man flu'' might not be a myth after all due to differences in the brain, new research suggests.
Neuroscientist Dr Amanda Ellison, of Britain's Durham University, theorises that men really do suffer more with coughs and colds as they have more temperature receptors in the brain.
Dr Ellison said the difference lies in the area of the brain that balances a variety of bodily mechanisms, including temperature.
Men and women both start out as equals in dealing with colds because the area known as the preoptic nucleus is the same size in children.
But when boys hit puberty, testosterone starts to act on the area, which is in the brain's hypothalamus and attached to a hormone gland, making it larger.
Dr Ellison said: ''When you have a cold, one of the things that happens is you get an increase in temperature to fight off the bugs.
''The bugs can't survive at higher temperatures. When your immune system is under attack the preoptic nucleus increases temperature to kill off the bugs.
''But men have more temperature receptors because that area of the brain is bigger in men than women. So men run a higher temperature and feel rougher - and if they complain they feel rough, then maybe they're right.''
Previous research did point towards the reality of ''man flu'', but the findings related to genetically engineered mice and were widely regarded as inconclusive.
''My research is on how different parts of the brain communicate with each other,'' Dr Ellison said.
''My role is to put two and two together. There is no hard evidence that the feelings are worse in males than females. This is a possible cause - but the argument will rage on.''