Estradiol levels in female brains may affect response to emotions during menstruation

Endocrine Today

Posted on November 3, 2010

ASRM Annual Meeting

Estradiol appears to play a significant role in modulating brain activation during the viewing of emotional information in women who have regular menstrual cycles, researchers said at the meeting.

It has been shown that women suffer from affective disorders at twice the rate of men, and many have thought that sex hormones contribute to the difference. In this study, women’s brains were studied via MRI during different stages of their menstrual cycles. The women were shown a set of pictures and asked to rate them as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The studies were then repeated at different phases of the women’s menstrual cycles. Serum levels of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone and progesterone were measured to confirm cycle stage.

In the early follicular stage of the menstrual cycle, no brain areas showed significantly increased activation. However, when studied mid-cycle, when hormone levels were higher, there were signs of increased lateral prefrontal activation and increased activity in other parts of the brain involved in processing emotional information.

“With directed attention and rating of emotional information, increased activations were only seen during late follicular phase compared to previous studies. This suggests dimorphic responses corresponding to estrogen levels with different cognitive processes,” the researchers concluded in their study abstract.

Broadwell CE. P-329. Presented at: 66th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine; Oct. 23-27, 2010; Denver.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.