Activity in extrastriate visual cortex is greater when people view emotional relative to neutral pictures. Prior brain imaging and psychophysiological work has further suggested a bias for men to react more strongly to pleasant pictures, and for women to react more strongly to unpleasant pictures. Here we investigated visual cortical activity using fMRI in 28 men and women during picture viewing. Men and women showed reliably greater visual cortical reactivity during both pleasant and unpleasant pictures, relative to neutral, consistent with the view that the motivational relevance of visual stimuli directs attention and enhances elaborative perceptual processing. However, men did show greater extrastriate activity than women specifically during erotic picture perception, possibly reflecting a gender-specific visual mechanism for sexual selection.
Copyright 2004 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins