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Investigating the impact of sex hormonal levels on facial emotion perception

Women experience the menstrual cycle from puberty until menopause through their life span. The menstrual cycle consists of two main phases, follicular and luteal phase (figure 1).

Some studies indicate the influence of female sex hormones linked to the menstrual cycle on emotion recognition. Emotion recognition refers to the ability to identify other people’s emotions, e.g. happiness, sadness, anger, etc. and plays a crucial role in social interactions.

In our study, we aimed to investigate whether emotion recognition is influenced by hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle. We predicted:

  1. Emotion recognition improves in the late follicular phase (associated with the high level of estradiol) (figure 2).
  2. The recognition of threat-related emotions (anger, disgust and fear) enhances in the mid-luteal phase (associated with the high level of progesterone), i.e. negativity bias (figure 3).

Since a limited number of studies has been conducted on the effect of menstrual cycle on cognitive functions, this study will enable us to gain a better understanding on the effect of female sex hormones on cognition and underlying mechanisms of emotion recognition.

We will further compare the data with a similar study on males to examine sex differences in emotion recognition.

Project leaders

Yasaman Rafiee +49 551 39-201621 Contact Profile

Prof. Dr. Anne Schacht

Prof. Dr. Anne Schacht +49 551 39-20625 +49 551 39-13570 Contact Profile

Lars Penke

Lars Penke +49 551 39-20701 Contact Profile

Julia Ostner

Julia Ostner +49 551 39-33925 Contact Profile