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Biol Psychiatry. 1996 Nov 1;40(9):859-71.

Gender differences in regional cerebral blood flow during transient self-induced sadness or happiness.

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  • 1Biological Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Men, compared to women, are less likely to experience mood disorders. We wondered if gender differences exist in the ability to self-induce transient sadness and happiness, and in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) either at rest or during transient emotions. Ten adult men and 10 age-matched women, all healthy and never mentally ill, were scanned using H2(15)O positron emission tomography at rest and during happy, sad, and neutral states self-induced by recalling affect-appropriate life events and looking at happy, sad, or neutral human faces. At rest, women had decreased temporal and prefrontal cortex rCBF, and increased brainstem rCBF. There were no significant between-group differences in difficulty, effort required, or the degree of happiness or sadness induced. Women activated a significantly wider portion of their limbic system than did men during transient sadness, despite similar self-reported changes in mood. These findings may aid in understanding gender differences with respect to emotion and mood.

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