ASRM: Hormone Levels Tied to Woman's Emotional Response

Hormone variation during menstrual cycle may impact reaction to emotional stimuli
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Hormone level variation during a woman's menstrual cycle may affect her response to emotional stimuli, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, held from Oct. 23 to 27 in Denver.

In a prospective study, Christina E. Broadwell, of the University of Vermont in Burlington, and colleagues evaluated eight women with regular menstrual cycles, who completed two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) sessions during the early follicular and late-follicular/ovulatory phase. During each fMRI session, women were shown a set of images and asked to rate them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

The researchers found increased lateral prefrontal activation and increased activity in the amygdala and subgenual anterior cingulate during mid-cycle fMRI, which has previously been shown to be associated with the processing of emotional information. However, no brain areas showed significantly increased activation during the early follicular phase, when hormone levels were lower compared to mid-cycle.

"These results suggest that estradiol plays a significant role in the modulation of brain activation during the viewing of emotional information in women with regular menstrual cycles," the authors write. "With directed attention and rating of emotional information, increased activations were only seen during late follicular phase compared to previous studies. This suggests dimorphic responses corresponding to estrogen levels with different cognitive processes."

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