Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain's Reward Circuit Activity Ebbs And Flows With A Woman's Hormonal Cycle

Date:
February 5, 2007
Source:
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health
Summary:
Fluctuations in sex hormone levels during women's menstrual cycles affect the responsiveness of their brains' reward circuitry, an imaging study has revealed. While women were winning rewards, their circuitry was more active if they were in a menstrual phase preceding ovulation and dominated by estrogen, compared to a phase when estrogen and progesterone are present. These first pictures of sex hormones influencing reward-evoked brain activity in humans may provide insights into mood and anxiety disorders.

Brain activity in the orbitofrontal cortex (yellow), part of the brain's reward system, was increased during women's pre-ovulatory (follicular) menstrual phase compared to their-post-ovulatory (luteal) phase while they were anticipating winning money. Located just behind the eyes, this area is thought to regulate emotion and reward-related planning behavior. Functional MRI data superimposed on structural MRI scan. (Source: NIMH Section on Integrative Neuroimaging)

Fluctuations in sex hormone levels during women's menstrual cycles affect the responsiveness of their brains' reward circuitry, an imaging study at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has revealed. While women were winning rewards, their circuitry was more active if they were in a menstrual phase preceding ovulation and dominated by estrogen, compared to a phase when estrogen and progesterone are present.

"These first pictures of sex hormones influencing reward-evoked brain activity in humans may provide insights into menstrual-related mood disorders, women's higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders, and their later onset and less severe course in schizophrenia," said Karen Berman, M.D., chief of the NIMH Section on Integrative Neuroimaging. "The study may also shed light on why women are more vulnerable to addictive drugs during the pre-ovulation phase of the cycle."

Berman, Drs. Jean-Claude Dreher, Peter Schmidt and colleagues in the NIMH Intramural Research Program report on their functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study online during the week of January 29, 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reward system circuitry includes: the prefrontal cortex, seat of thinking and planning; the amygdala, a fear center; the hippocampus, a learning and memory hub; and the striatum, which relays signals from these areas to the cortex. Reward circuit neurons harbor receptors for estrogen and progesterone. However, how these hormones influence reward circuit activity in humans has remained unclear.

To pinpoint hormone effects on the reward circuit, Berman and colleagues scanned the brain activity of 13 women and 13 men while they performed a task involving simulated slot machines. The women were scanned before and after ovulation.

The fMRI pictures showed that when the women were anticipating a reward, they activated the amygdala and a cortex area behind the eyes that regulates emotion and reward-related planning behavior more during the pre-ovulation phase (four to eight days after their period began) than in the post-ovulatory phase.

When they hit the jackpot and actually won a reward, women in the pre-ovulatory phase activated the striatum and circuit areas linked to pleasure and reward more than when in the post-ovulatory phase.

The researchers also confirmed that the reward-related brain activity was directly linked to levels of sex hormones. Activity in the amygdala and hippocampus was in lockstep with estrogen levels regardless of cycle phase; activity in these areas was also triggered by progesterone levels while women were anticipating rewards during the post-ovulatory phase. Activity patterns that emerged when rewards were delivered during the post-ovulatory phase suggested that estrogen's effect on the reward circuit might be altered by the presence of progesterone during that period.

Men showed a different activation profile than women during both anticipation and delivery of rewards. For example, men had more activity in a striatum (signal relay station) area during anticipation compared to women and women had more activity in a frontal cortex (executive hub) area at the time of reward delivery compared to men.

Also participating in the study were: Philip Kohn, Daniella Furman, NIMH Section on Integrative Neuroimaging; and David Rubinow, NIMH Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Branch.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. "Brain's Reward Circuit Activity Ebbs And Flows With A Woman's Hormonal Cycle." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070203103344.htm>.
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. (2007, February 5). Brain's Reward Circuit Activity Ebbs And Flows With A Woman's Hormonal Cycle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070203103344.htm
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. "Brain's Reward Circuit Activity Ebbs And Flows With A Woman's Hormonal Cycle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070203103344.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins