Estradiol appears to play a significant role in
modulating brain activation during the viewing of emotional information in
women who have regular menstrual cycles, researchers said at the meeting.
It has been shown that women suffer from affective
disorders at twice the rate of men, and many have thought that sex hormones
contribute to the difference. In this study, women’s brains were studied
via MRI during different stages of their menstrual cycles. The women were shown
a set of pictures and asked to rate them as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
The studies were then repeated at different phases of the women’s
menstrual cycles. Serum levels of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone,
luteinizing hormone and progesterone were measured to confirm cycle stage.
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.
“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,” the researchers
concluded in their study abstract.
Broadwell CE. P-329. Presented at: 66th Annual Meeting of the American
Society of Reproductive Medicine; Oct. 23-27, 2010; Denver.
This research sheds light on what may prove to be an important role for
hormones when it comes to processing emotions.
– Rogerio Lobo, MD
President-Elect of the American Society for Reproductive