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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Neural markers of a greater female responsiveness to social stimuli

Alice M Proverbio1*, Alberto Zani2 and Roberta Adorni1

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

2 Inst. of Molecular Bioimaging and Physiology, CNR, Milano-Segrate, Italy

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BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-56

Published: 30 June 2008

Abstract

Background

There is fMRI evidence that women are neurally predisposed to process infant laughter and crying. Other findings show that women might be more empathic and sensitive than men to emotional facial expressions. However, no gender difference in the brain responses to persons and unanimated scenes has hitherto been demonstrated.

Results

Twenty-four men and women viewed 220 images portraying persons or landscapes and ERPs were recorded from 128 sites. In women, but not in men, the N2 component (210–270) was much larger to persons than to scenes. swLORETA showed significant bilateral activation of FG (BA19/37) in both genders when viewing persons as opposed to scenes. Only women showed a source of activity in the STG and in the right MOG (extra-striate body area, EBA), and only men in the left parahippocampal area (PPA).

Conclusion

A significant gender difference was found in activation of the left and right STG (BA22) and the cingulate cortex for the subtractive condition women minus men, thus indicating that women might have a greater preference or interest for social stimuli (faces and persons).