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

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Experimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)379-386
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


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.