Background: Carriers of MR-haplotype 1 and 3 (GA/CG; rs5522 and rs2070951) are more sensitive to the influence of oral contraceptives (OC) and menstrual cycle phase on emotional information processing than MR-haplotype 2 (CA) carriers. We investigated whether this effect is associated with estradiol (E2) and/or progesterone (P4) levels.
Method: Healthy MR-genotyped premenopausal women were tested twice in a counterbalanced design. Naturally cycling (NC) women were tested in the early-follicular and mid-luteal phase and OC-users during OC-intake and in the pill-free week. At both sessions E2 and P4 were assessed in saliva. Tests included implicit and explicit positive and negative affect, attentional blink accuracy, emotional memory, emotion recognition, and risky decision-making (gambling).
Results: MR-haplotype 2 homozygotes had higher implicit happiness scores than MR-haplotype 2 heterozygotes (p=0.031) and MR-haplotype 1/3 carriers (p<0.001). MR-haplotype 2 homozygotes also had longer reaction times to happy faces in an emotion recognition test than MR-haplotype 1/3 (p=0.001). Practice effects were observed for most measures. The pattern of correlations between information processing and P4 or E2 differed between sessions, as well as the moderating effects of the MR genotype. In the first session the MR-genotype moderated the influence of P4 on implicit anxiety (sr=-0.30; p=0.005): higher P4 was associated with reduction in implicit anxiety, but only in MR-haplotype 2 homozygotes (sr=-0.61; p=0.012). In the second session the MR-genotype moderated the influence of E2 on the recognition of facial expressions of happiness (sr=-0.21; p=0.035): only in MR-haplotype 1/3 higher E2 was correlated with happiness recognition (sr=0.29; p=0.005). In the second session higher E2 and P4 were negatively correlated with accuracy in lag2 trials of the attentional blink task (p<0.001). Thus NC women, compared to OC-users, performed worse on lag 2 trials (p=0.041).
Conclusion: The higher implicit happiness scores of MR-haplotype 2 homozygotes are in line with previous reports. Performance in the attentional blink task may be influenced by OC-use. The MR-genotype moderates the influence of E2 and P4 on emotional information processing. This moderating effect may depend on the novelty of the situation.
Keywords: Emotional information processing; Estradiol; Mineralocorticoid receptor haplotype; Oral contraceptives; Progesterone.
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