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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Mar;9(3):316-25. doi: 10.1093/scan/nss137. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Reduced emotion processing efficiency in healthy males relative to females.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan Medical School, 2101 Commonwealth Boulevard, Suite C, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


This study examined sex differences in categorization of facial emotions and activation of brain regions supportive of those classifications. In Experiment 1, performance on the Facial Emotion Perception Test (FEPT) was examined among 75 healthy females and 63 healthy males. Females were more accurate in the categorization of fearful expressions relative to males. In Experiment 2, 3T functional magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired for a separate sample of 21 healthy females and 17 healthy males while performing the FEPT. Activation to neutral facial expressions was subtracted from activation to sad, angry, fearful and happy facial expressions. Although females and males demonstrated activation in some overlapping regions for all emotions, many regions were exclusive to females or males. For anger, sad and happy, males displayed a larger extent of activation than did females, and greater height of activation was detected in diffuse cortical and subcortical regions. For fear, males displayed greater activation than females only in right postcentral gyri. With one exception in females, performance was not associated with activation. Results suggest that females and males process emotions using different neural pathways, and these differences cannot be explained by performance variations.


affect perception; face emotion processing; gender differences; sex differences

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