It is often suggested that females are the more emotional of the two genders. Though this may not exactly be the case, a research team at the University of Bäsel has found that there are sex-dependent differences in how we process emotion. Over 3 000 test subjects were tested to demonstrate that females rate emotional image content as more stimulating than their male counterparts, with negative images evoking a particularly significant response.
Though earlier studies have already established that women often consider emotional events more stimulating than men, this large-scale study was the first of its kind to link these differences to sex variation in memory.
In a memory test following the initial experiment, it was observed that females could recall significantly more images than the males and had a notable advantage with positive images.
Leader of the study, Dr Annette Milnik, believes the results may indicate differences in brain activity and processing between the sexes. “This would suggest that gender-dependent differences in emotional processing and memory are due to different mechanisms,” she said.
Previous studies suggested increased facial and motor reactions to negative emotional stimuli in females. This was supported by fMRI data from almost 700 volunteers, where appraisal of negative emotional images was associated with increased brain activity in motor regions in females. The results may support the common belief that women are more emotionally expressive than men.
These findings may support a better understanding of these diseases and pave the way to improved treatment, as some neuropsychiatric illnesses exhibit gender-related differences
“Women are more likely to develop major depression, anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are related to emotional dysregulation,” Milnik explained in an interview with the Huffington Post.
“We hope that understanding the neural correlates of sex specific emotional processing will be an important step towards elucidating the mechanisms linked to sex-dependent emotional dysregulation.”