Mineralocorticoid receptor haplotype moderates the effects of oral contraceptives and menstrual cycle on emotional information processing

J Psychopharmacol. 2016 Oct;30(10):1054-61. doi: 10.1177/0269881116647504. Epub 2016 May 24.


Rationale: The processing of emotional information is affected by menstrual cycle phase and by the use of oral contraceptives (OCs). The stress hormone cortisol is known to affect emotional information processing via the limbic mineralocorticoid receptor (MR).

Objectives: We investigated in an exploratory study whether the MR-genotype moderates the effect of both OC-use and menstrual cycle phase on emotional cognition.

Methods: Healthy premenopausal volunteers (n=93) of West-European descent completed a battery of emotional cognition tests. Forty-nine participants were OC users and 44 naturally cycling, 21 of whom were tested in the early follicular (EF) and 23 in the mid-luteal (ML) phase of the menstrual cycle.

Results: In MR-haplotype 1/3 carriers, ML women gambled more than EF women when their risk to lose was relatively small. In MR-haplotype 2, ML women gambled more than EF women, regardless of their odds of winning. OC-users with MR-haplotype 1/3 recognised fewer facial expressions than ML women with MR-haplotype 1/3.

Conclusion: MR-haplotype 1/3 carriers may be more sensitive to the influence of their female hormonal status. MR-haplotype 2 carriers showed more risky decision-making. As this may reflect optimistic expectations, this finding may support previous observations in female carriers of MR-haplotype 2 in a naturalistic cohort study.

Keywords: Mineralocorticoid-receptor haplotypes; emotional information processing; menstrual cycle phase; oral contraceptives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Follicular Phase / drug effects*
  • Follicular Phase / metabolism
  • Haplotypes / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Luteal Phase / drug effects*
  • Luteal Phase / metabolism
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid