For Women, Hormone Levels in the Brain May Affect Response to Emotions

August 25, 2010

How do hormone levels affect women’s reactions to emotional stimuli? Researchers from the University of Vermont are attempting to answer this question by studying women’s brains using functional MRI (fMRI) during different stages of their menstrual cycles The results of their study were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Annual Meeting.

How do hormone levels affect women’s reactions to emotional stimuli? Researchers from the University of Vermont are attempting to answer this question by studying women’s brains using functional MRI (fMRI) during different stages of their menstrual cycles The results of their study were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Annual Meeting.

Women with regular menstrual cycles completed two fMRIs during the early follicular and late-follicular/ovulatory phase During the imaging, the women were shown a set of pictures and were asked to rate them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

According to a press release, “In the early follicular stage of the menstrual cycle, no brain areas showed significantly increased activation However, when studied mid-cycle, when hormone levels were higher, there were signs of increased lateral prefrontal activation and increased activity in other parts of the brain involved in processing emotional information.”

Because women suffer from affective disorders at twice the rate of men, “this research sheds light on what may prove to be an important role for hormones when it comes to processing emotions,” said Rogerio Lobo, MD, President-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.