Sex-specific developmental changes in amygdala responses to affective faces

Neuroreport. 2001 Feb 12;12(2):427-33. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200102120-00047.


It is hypothesized that adolescent development involves a redistribution of cerebral functions from lower subcortical structures to higher regions of the prefrontal cortex to provide greater self-control over emotional behavior. We further hypothesized that this redistribution is likely to be moderated by sex-specific hormonal changes. To examine developmental sex differences in affective processing, 19 children and adolescents underwent fMRI while viewing photographs of faces expressing fear. Males and females differed in the pattern of their amygdala vs prefrontal activation during adolescent maturation. With age, females showed a progressive increase in prefrontal relative to amygdala activation in the left hemisphere, whereas males failed to show a significant age related difference. There appear to be sex differences in the functional maturation of affect-related prefrontal-amygdala circuits during adolescence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect
  • Age Factors
  • Amygdala / growth & development*
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Child
  • Facial Expression*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / growth & development
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*