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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2008 Sep;115(9):1327-37. doi: 10.1007/s00702-008-0073-0. Epub 2008 Jun 12.

The functional anatomy of semantic retrieval is influenced by gender, menstrual cycle, and sex hormones.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Muenster, Albert-Schweitzer-Str.11, 48149 Muenster, Germany.


This study examines the neurobiology of semantic retrieval and describes the influence of gender, menstrual cycle, and sex hormones on semantic networks. Healthy right-handed subjects (12 men, 12 women) were investigated with 3T-fMRI during synonym generation. Behavioral performance and sex hormone levels were assessed. Women were examined during the early follicular and midluteal cycle phase. The activation pattern in all groups involved left frontal and temporal as well as bilateral medial frontal, cingulate, occipital, basal ganglia, and cerebellar regions. Men showed greater left frontal activation than women in both menstrual cycle phases. Women yielded high correlations of left prefrontal activation with estradiol in the midluteal phase and with progesterone in both phases. Testosterone levels correlated highly with left prefrontal activation in all three groups. In all, we describe a cerebral network involved in semantic processing and demonstrate that it is significantly affected by gender and sex steroid hormones.

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