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Pain. 2013 Oct;154(10):2088-99. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.06.024. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

Sex differences in emotion-related cognitive processes in irritable bowel syndrome and healthy control subjects.

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Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Pain and Interoception Network (PAIN) Repository, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Greater responsiveness of emotional arousal circuits in relation to delivered visceral pain has been implicated as underlying central pain amplification in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with female subjects showing greater responses than male subjects. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure neural responses to an emotion recognition paradigm, using faces expressing negative emotions (fear and anger). Sex and disease differences in the connectivity of affective and modulatory cortical circuits were studied in 47 IBS (27 premenopausal female subjects) and 67 healthy control subjects (HCs; 38 premenopausal female subjects). Male subjects (IBS+HC) showed greater overall brain responses to stimuli than female subjects in prefrontal cortex, insula, and amygdala. Effective connectivity analyses identified major sex- and disease-related differences in the functioning of brain networks related to prefrontal regions, cingulate, insula, and amygdala. Male subjects had stronger connectivity between anterior cingulate subregions, amygdala, and insula, whereas female subjects had stronger connectivity to and from the prefrontal modulatory regions (medial/dorsolateral cortex). Male IBS subjects demonstrate greater engagement of cortical and affect-related brain circuitry compared to male control subjects and female subjects, when viewing faces depicting emotions previously shown to elicit greater behavioral and brain responses in male subjects.


Emotion recognition; Irritable bowel syndrome; Sex differences

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