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Brain's reward circuit activity ebbs and flows with a woman's hormonal cycle

ygdala and a cortex area behind the eyes that regulates emotion and reward-related planning behavior more during the pre-ovulation phase (four to eight days after their period began) than in the post-ovulatory phase.

When they hit the jackpot and actually won a reward, women in the pre-ovulatory phase activated the striatum and circuit areas linked to pleasure and reward more than when in the post-ovulatory phase.

The researchers also confirmed that the reward-related brain activity was directly linked to levels of sex hormones. Activity in the amygdala and hippocampus was in lockstep with estrogen levels regardless of cycle phase; activity in these areas was also triggered by progesterone levels while women were anticipating rewards during the post-ovulatory phase. Activity patterns that emerged when rewards were delivered during the post-ovulatory phase suggested that estrogen's effect on the reward circuit might be altered by the presence of progesterone during that period.

Men showed a different activation profile than women during both anticipation and delivery of rewards. For example, men had more activity in a striatum (signal relay station) area during anticipation compared to women and women had more activity in a frontal cortex (executive hub) area at the time of reward delivery compared to men.


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Source:NIH/National Institute of Mental Health


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