Sex-hormone status and emotional processing in healthy women

Autor(en): Gamsakhurdashvili, Dali
Antov, Martin I.
Stockhorst, Ursula 
Stichwörter: Affective empathy; BORDERLINE PERSONALITY-DISORDER; BRAIN; Cognitive empathy; Emotional memory; EMPATHY; Endocrinology & Metabolism; ESTROGEN; MEMORY; MENSTRUAL-CYCLE; MINERALOCORTICOID RECEPTOR HAPLOTYPE; Neurosciences; Neurosciences & Neurology; Oral contraceptives; ORAL-CONTRACEPTIVES; PROGESTERONE; Psychiatry; PSYCHOSOCIAL STRESS
Erscheinungsdatum: 2021
Volumen: 130
Fluctuations of sex hormones across the menstrual cycle allow investigating the role of 17-8 estradiol and progesterone in emotional processing. We examined emotional memory, empathy-related measures, as well as mimic and skin-conductance responses to affective stimuli in 72 women either in the mid-cycle (MC-group: moderate to high estradiol, low progesterone), the later cycle (LC-group: high progesterone, moderate estradiol), or during oral contraceptive use (OC-group: low endogenous ovarian-hormone levels). In the first session, affective pictures were presented (memory encoding) while recording mimic and skin-conductance responses. Additionally, participants were exposed to a post-encoding stressor (cold pressor test). After 24 h, we tested surprise recall as well as empathy-related performance. Emotional memory was not affected by the hormone-status group, stressor, or salivary hormone levels. For the cognitive empathy-related measure, hormone status interacted with the protagonist gender. Women in the LC- and OC-groups identified emotions more accurately if depicted by female protagonists, yet the MC-group identified emotions depicted by men and women equally well. Correspondingly, the number of correctly identified emotions from male protagonists correlated positively with estradiol levels. In the affective empathy-related ratings, the OC-group showed a negativity bias, rating negative (vs. positive) emotions higher, although not associated with hormone levels. Mimic responses were not modulated by hormone-status group or related to hormone levels. Skin-conductance responses to negative pictures were heightened in the LC-group and correlated positively with progesterone levels. These data suggest a differential impact of female sex hormones on emotional processing, i.e., empathy-related performance and affective sympathetic reactivity, but not in emotional memory or affective mimic reactivity.
ISSN: 03064530
DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105258

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