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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Sep 20;45(12):2744-54. Epub 2007 Apr 19.

Gender differences in the cognitive control of emotion: An fMRI study.

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1
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr. 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany.

Abstract

The interaction of emotion and cognition has become a topic of major interest. However, the influence of gender on the interplay between the two processes, along with its neural correlates have not been fully analysed so far. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study we induced negative emotion using negative olfactory stimulation while male (n=21) and female (n=19) participants performed an n-back verbal working memory task. Based on findings indicating increased emotional reactivity in women, we expected the female participants to exhibit stronger activation in characteristically emotion-associated areas during the interaction of emotional and cognitive processing in comparison to the male participants. Both groups were found to be significantly impaired in their working memory performance by negative emotion induction. However, fMRI analysis revealed distinct differences in neuronal activation between groups. In men, cognitive performance under negative emotion induction was associated with extended activation patterns in mainly prefrontal and superior parietal regions. In women, the interaction between emotion and working memory yielded a significantly stronger response in the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) compared to their male counterparts. Our data suggest that in women the interaction of verbal working memory and negative emotion is associated with relative hyperactivation in more emotion-associated areas whereas in men regions commonly regarded as important for cognition and cognitive control are activated. These results provide new insights in gender-specific cerebral mechanisms.

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