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Sex differences in how stress affects brain activity during face viewing

Mather, Maraa; Lighthall, Nichole R.a; Nga, Lina; Gorlick, Marissa A.b

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32833ddd92

Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially whereas women seek social support. This functional magnetic resonance imaging study indicates that stress also affects brain activity while viewing emotional faces differently for men and women. Fusiform face area response to faces was diminished by acute stress in men but increased by stress in women. Furthermore, among stressed men viewing angry faces, brain regions involved in interpreting and understanding others' emotions (the insula, temporal pole, and inferior frontal gyrus) showed reduced coordination with the fusiform face area and the amygdala, whereas the functional connectivity among these regions increased with stress for women. These findings suggest that stress influences emotional perception differently for men and women.

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aUniversity of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

bUniversity of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Dr Mara Mather, 3715 McClintock Avenue, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

Tel: +1 213 821 1868; fax: +1 213 740 8241; e-mail:

Received 18 June 2010 accepted 4 July 2010

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© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.