Background: Oral contraceptives (OCs) affect mood in some women and may have more subtle effects on emotional information processing in many more users. Female carriers of mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) haplotype 2 have been shown to be more optimistic and less vulnerable to depression.
Aim: To investigate the effects of oral contraceptives on emotional information processing and a possible moderating effect of MR haplotype.
Methods: Cross-sectional study in 85 healthy premenopausal women of West-European descent.
Results: We found significant main effects of oral contraceptives on facial expression recognition, emotional memory and decision-making. Furthermore, carriers of MR haplotype 1 or 3 were sensitive to the impact of OCs on the recognition of sad and fearful faces and on emotional memory, whereas MR haplotype 2 carriers were not.
Limitations: Different compounds of OCs were included. No hormonal measures were taken. Most naturally cycling participants were assessed in the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle.
Conclusions: Carriers of MR haplotype 2 may be less sensitive to depressogenic side-effects of OCs.
Keywords: cognition; emotional information processing; mineralocorticoid receptor; oral contraceptives.
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