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      Menstrual cycle influence on cognitive function and emotion processing—from a reproductive perspective


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          The menstrual cycle has attracted research interest ever since the 1930s. For many researchers the menstrual cycle is an excellent model of ovarian steroid influence on emotion, behavior, and cognition. Over the past years methodological improvements in menstrual cycle studies have been noted, and this review summarizes the findings of methodologically sound menstrual cycle studies in healthy women. Whereas the predominant hypotheses of the cognitive field state that sexually dimorphic cognitive skills that favor men are improved during menstrual cycle phases with low estrogen and that cognitive skills that favor women are improved during cycle phases with increased estrogen and/or progesterone, this review has not found sufficient evidence to support any of these hypotheses. Mental rotation has gained specific interest in this aspect, but a meta-analysis yielded a standardized mean difference in error rate of 1.61 (95% CI −0.35 to 3.57), suggesting, at present, no favor of an early follicular phase improvement in mental rotation performance. Besides the sexually dimorphic cognitive skills, studies exploring menstrual cycle effects on tasks that probe prefrontal cortex function, for instance verbal or spatial working memory, have also been reviewed. While studies thus far are few, results at hand suggest improved performance at times of high estradiol levels. Menstrual cycle studies on emotional processing, on the other hand, tap into the emotional disorders of the luteal phase, and may be of relevance for women with premenstrual disorders. Although evidence at present is limited, it is suggested that emotion recognition, consolidation of emotional memories, and fear extinction is modulated by the menstrual cycle in women. With the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, several studies report changes in brain reactivity across the menstrual cycle, most notably increased amygdala reactivity in the luteal phase. Thus, to the extent that behavioral changes have been demonstrated over the course of the menstrual cycle, the best evidence suggests that differences in sexually dimorphic tasks are small and difficult to replicate. However, emotion-related changes are more consistently found, and are better associated with progesterone than with estradiol such that high progesterone levels are associated with increased amygdala reactivity and increased emotional memory.

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          Serotonin transporter genetic variation and the response of the human amygdala.

          A functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the human serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) has been associated with several dimensions of neuroticism and psychopathology, especially anxiety traits, but the predictive value of this genotype against these complex behaviors has been inconsistent. Serotonin [5- hydroxytryptamine, (5-HT)] function influences normal fear as well as pathological anxiety, behaviors critically dependent on the amygdala in animal models and in clinical studies. We now report that individuals with one or two copies of the short allele of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) promoter polymorphism, which has been associated with reduced 5-HTT expression and function and increased fear and anxiety-related behaviors, exhibit greater amygdala neuronal activity, as assessed by BOLD functional magnetic resonance imaging, in response to fearful stimuli compared with individuals homozygous for the long allele. These results demonstrate genetically driven variation in the response of brain regions underlying human emotional behavior and suggest that differential excitability of the amygdala to emotional stimuli may contribute to the increased fear and anxiety typically associated with the short SLC6A4 allele.
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            Emergence and Characterization of Sex Differences in Spatial Ability: A Meta-Analysis

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              Sex and depression in the National Comorbidity Survey. I: Lifetime prevalence, chronicity and recurrence.

              Basic epidemiologic prevalence data are presented on sex differences in DSM-III-R major depressive episodes (MDE). The data come from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), the first survey in the U.S. to administer a structured psychiatric interview to a nationally representative sample of the general population. Consistent with previous research, women are approximately 1.7 times as likely as men to report a lifetime history of MDE. Age of onset analysis shows that this sex difference begins in early adolescence and persists through the mid-50s. Women also have a much higher rate of 12-month depression than men. However, women with a history of depression do not differ from men with a history of depression in either the probability of being chronically depressed in the past year or in the probability of having an acute recurrence in the past year. This means that the higher prevalence of 12-month depression among women than men is largely due to women having a higher risk of first onset. The implications of these results for future research are discussed in a closing section of the paper.

                Author and article information

                Front Neurosci
                Front Neurosci
                Front. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                24 November 2014
                : 8
                : 380
                [1] 1Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden
                [2] 2Department of Psychology, Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden
                Author notes

                Edited by: Belinda Pletzer, University of Salzburg, Austria

                Reviewed by: Elizabeth Hampson, The University of Western Ontario, Canada; Hubert Hannes Kerschbaum, University of Salzburg, Austria; Nicole Petersen, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

                *Correspondence: Inger Sundström Poromaa, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden e-mail: inger.sundstrom@ 123456kbh.uu.se

                This article was submitted to Neuroendocrine Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

                Copyright © 2014 Sundström Poromaa and Gingnell.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 29 June 2014
                : 07 November 2014
                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 5, Equations: 0, References: 129, Pages: 16, Words: 13953
                Review Article

                menstrual cycle,estradiol,progesterone,cognition,emotion,functional magnetic resonance imaging


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