Boys do it the right way: sex-dependent amygdala lateralization during face processing in adolescents

Neuroimage. 2011 Jun 1;56(3):1847-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.02.019. Epub 2011 Feb 22.


Previous studies have observed a sex-dependent lateralization of amygdala activation related to emotional memory. Specifically, it was shown that the activity of the right amygdala correlates significantly stronger with memory for images judged as arousing in men than in women, and that there is a significantly stronger relationship in women than in men between activity of the left amygdala and memory for arousing images. Using a large sample of 235 male adolescents and 235 females matched for age and handedness, we investigated the sex-specific lateralization of amygdala activation during an emotional face perception fMRI task. Performing a formal sex by hemisphere analysis, we observed in males a significantly stronger right amygdala activation as compared to females. Our results indicate that adolescents display a sex-dependent lateralization of amygdala activation that is also present in basic processes of emotional perception. This finding suggests a sex-dependent development of human emotion processing and may further implicate possible etiological pathways for mental disorders most frequent in adolescent males (i.e., conduct disorder).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Anger / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics