Background. Previous studies have suggested that men and women process emotional stimuli differently. In this study, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate gender differences in regional cerebral activity during the perception of positive or negative emotions.
Method. The experiment comprised two emotional conditions (positively/negatively valenced words) during which fMRI data were acquired.
Results. Thirty-eight healthy volunteers (19 males, 19 females) were investigated. A direct comparison of brain activation between men and women revealed differential activation in the right putamen, the right superior temporal gyrus, and the left supramarginal gyrus during processing of positively valenced words versus non-words for women versus men. By contrast, during processing of negatively valenced words versus non-words, relatively greater activation was seen in the left perirhinal cortex and hippocampus for women versus men, and in the right supramarginal gyrus for men versus women.
Conclusions. Our findings suggest gender-related neural responses to emotional stimuli and could contribute to the understanding of mechanisms underlying the gender disparity of neuropsychiatric diseases such as mood disorders.