Reduced emotion processing efficiency in healthy males relative to females

Sara L. Weisenbach, Lisa J. Rapport, Emily M. Briceno, Brennan D. Haase, Aaron C. Vederman, Linas A. Bieliauskas, Robert C. Welsh, Monica N. Starkman, Melvin G. McInnis, Jon Kar Zubieta, Scott A. Langenecker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This study examined sex differences in categorization of facial emotions and activation of brain regions supportive of those classifications. In Experiment 1, performance on the Facial Emotion Perception Test (FEPT) was examined among 75 healthy females and 63 healthy males. Females were more accurate in the categorization of fearful expressions relative to males. In Experiment 2, 3T functional magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired for a separate sample of 21 healthy females and 17 healthy males while performing the FEPT. Activation to neutral facial expressions was subtracted from activation to sad, angry, fearful and happy facial expressions. Although females and males demonstrated activation in some overlapping regions for all emotions, many regions were exclusive to females or males. For anger, sad and happy, males displayed a larger extent of activation than did females, and greater height of activation was detected in diffuse cortical and subcortical regions. For fear, males displayed greater activation than females only in right postcentral gyri. With one exception in females, performance was not associated with activation. Results suggest that females and males process emotions using different neural pathways, and these differences cannot be explained by performance variations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbernss137
    Pages (from-to)316-325
    Number of pages10
    JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Mar 2014


    • Affect perception
    • Face emotion processing
    • Gender differences
    • Sex differences

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Cognitive Neuroscience


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