Sex differences and emotion regulation: an event related potential study
Gardener, EKT and Carr, AR and MacGregor, A and Felmingham, KL, Sex differences and emotion regulation: an event related potential study, PL o S One, 8, (10) Article e73475. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]
Difficulties in emotion regulation have been implicated as a potential mechanism underlying anxiety and mood disorders. It is possible that sex differences in emotion regulation may contribute towards the heightened female prevalence for these disorders. Previous fMRI studies of sex differences in emotion regulation have shown mixed results, possibly due to difficulties in discriminating the component processes of early emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. The present study used event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine sex differences in N1 and N2 components (reflecting early emotional reactivity) and P3 and LPP components (reflecting emotion regulation). N1, N2, P3, and LPP were recorded from 20 men and 23 women who were instructed to "increase," "decrease," and "maintain" their emotional response during passive viewing of negative images. Results indicated that women had significantly greater N1 and N2 amplitudes (reflecting early emotional reactivity) to negative stimuli than men, supporting a female negativity bias. LPP amplitudes increased to the "increase" instruction, and women displayed greater LPP amplitudes than men to the "increase" instruction. There were no differences to the "decrease" instruction in women or men. These findings confirm predictions of the female negativity bias hypothesis and suggest that women have greater up-regulation of emotional responses to negative stimuli. This finding is highly significant in light of the female vulnerability for developing anxiety disorders.