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Females and attention to eye gaze: effects of the menstrual cycle

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2013
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Journal number3
Volume227
Number of pages8
Pages379-386
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

It is well known that an observer will attend to the location cued by another’s eye gaze and that in some circumstances this effect is enhanced when the emotion expressed is threat-related. This study explored whether attention to the gaze of threat-related faces is potentiated in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when detection of threat is suggested to be enhanced, compared to the follicular phase. Female participants were tested on a gaze cueing task in their luteal (N=13) or follicular phase (N=15). Participants were presented with various emotional expressions with an averted eye gaze, that was either spatially congruent or incongruent with a forthcoming target. Females in the luteal phase responded faster overall to targets on trials with a 200 ms stimulus onset asynchrony interval (SOA). The results suggest that during the luteal phase, females show a general and automatic hypersensitivity to respond to stimuli associated with socially and emotionally relevant cues. This may be part of an adaptive biological mechanism to protect foetal development.