Emotional and cognitive functional imaging of estrogen and progesterone effects in the female human brain: a systematic review.

Toffoletto S, Lanzenberger R, Gingnell M, Sundström-Poromaa I, Comasco E

Psychoneuroendocrinology 50 (-) 28-52 [2014-12-00; online 2014-08-13]

Ovarian hormones are pivotal for the physiological maintenance of the brain function as well as its response to environmental stimuli. There is mounting evidence attesting the relevance of endogenous ovarian hormones as well as exogenous estradiol and progesterone for emotional and cognitive processing. The present review systematically summarized current knowledge on sex steroid hormonal modulation of neural substrates of emotion and cognition revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-four studies of healthy naturally cycling and combined oral contraceptives (COC) user women, or women undergoing experimental manipulations, during their reproductive age, were included. Furthermore, six studies of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a hormonally based mood disorder, and three of gender dysphoria (GD), which provides an intriguing opportunity to examine the effect of high-dose cross-sex hormone therapy (CSHT) on brain functioning, were included. Globally, low (early follicular and the entire follicular phase for estrogen and progesterone, respectively) and high (COC, CSHT, late follicular and luteal phase for estrogen; COC, mid- and late-luteal phase for progesterone) hormonal milieu diversely affected the response of several brain regions including the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and inferior frontal gyrus, but their functional recruitment across groups and domains was scattered. The constellation of findings provides initial evidence of the influence of sex steroid hormones on cortical and subcortical regions implicated in emotional and cognitive processing. Further well-powered and multimodal neuroimaging studies will be needed to identify the neural mechanism of functional brain alterations induced by sex steroid hormones.

Erika Comasco

PubMed 25222701

DOI 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.07.025

Crossref 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.07.025

pii: S0306-4530(14)00301-1