Orbitofrontal cortex activity related to emotional processing changes across the menstrual cycle.
The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been implicated in the representation of emotional stimuli, assignment of emotional valence/salience to stimuli, stimulus-reinforcement association learning, motivation, and socio-emotional control. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in female subjects without premenstrual mood symptoms, we found that OFC activity to emotional linguistic stimuli varies depending on the menstrual cycle phase. Specifically, anterior-medial OFC activity for negative vs. neutral stimuli was increased premenstrually and decreased postmenstrually. The inverse pattern was seen in the lateral OFC. These findings suggest that specific subregional OFC activity to emotional stimuli is modulated across the menstrual cycle. The data also demonstrate that menstrual cycle phase is an important consideration in further studies attempting to elucidate the neural substrates of affective representation.