Stressing reward: Does sex matter?

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    Acute stress influences the way in which we process information related to our own functioning, as indicated by doctoral research of Stella Banis. In experiments measuring brain activity in addition to behavior, she found that stress exposure reduced attentional preparation to upcoming tasks, and impaired the processing of feedback information. This is in line with the theory that precisely these functions are involved in the pathogenesis of stress-related disorders.
    Stress-related disorders, such as depression and addiction, comprise a major public health concern. These disorders show sex-specific prevalence rates, which may be related to sex-specific stress responses. However, Banis found that acute stress effects on feedback processing were largely similar for male and female participants.
    In addition, gonadal hormone fluctuations have been put forward as an important factor in the pathogenesis of certain stress-related disorders in women. Women are generally thought to be more sensitive to stress during the days before menses onset. However, in an experiment in which healthy women completed two sessions in different phases, Banis did not find proof for this idea. An increased sensitivity to stress during the premenstrual phase might be limited to women with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
    Nevertheless, Banis did find that menstrual phase modulates the way in which women process information about their functioning. During the days before ovulation, women were more sensitive to information about their performance (am I performing well or not?), independent of whether a reward was at stake. During the days before menstruation, women were more reactive to the prospect of reward.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Lorist, Monicque, Supervisor
    Award date19-Apr-2018
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs 978-90-367-9988-1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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