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Emotional Processing in the Female Brain

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Women and men each process emotions differently, which impacts each gender's response to people and situations.

Neuroscience research has investigated the different emotional pathways in the human brain. According to Rick Nauert, PhD, author of the article “Brain Activity Regulates Emotions,” the prefrontal cortex (PFC)(1) is the center of cognitive regulation of human emotions. Within the prefrontal cortex, the ventrolateral (vlPFC), dorsolateral (dlPFC) and dorsomedial (dmPFC) prefrontal cortices are activated the most during cognition-emotion tasks.

Researchers found two emotional pathways that linked with the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. The first pathway with the nucleus accumbens(2) is related to a decrease of negative emotions. On the other hand, the second pathway with the amygdala(3) is related to an increase of negative emotions. For example, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have increased activity in the amygdala, resulting in the patient “reliving” the trauma.

Research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reveals that “brain scans of teens...reveal an emotional circuit activating more in girls as they grow older, but not in boys.” This emotional change makes girls more prone to developing mood and anxiety disorders. According to Dr. Daniel Pine at the NIMH, “during this time of heightening sensitivity to interpersonal stress and peers' perceptions, girls are becoming increasing preoccupied with how individuals peers view them, while boys tend to become more focused on their status within group pecking orders.” The emotional circuit identified by the NIMH in this study involved the nucleus accumbens, hypothalamus(4), hippocampus(5) and insula(6).

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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