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Progesterone and Cerebral Function during Emotion Processing in Men and Women with Schizophrenia

DOI: 10.1155/2012/917901

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Abstract:

Schizophrenia has been associated with disturbed levels of sex-steroid hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. In the present study we have examined the implication of a less studied hormone progesterone. Forty-three patients with schizophrenia (21 women) and 43 control participants (21 women) underwent functional MRI while viewing emotionally positive, negative, and neutral images. Blood samples were taken prior to the scanning session to evaluate progesterone levels. Simple regression analyses between levels of progesterone and brain activations associated with emotion processing were performed using SPM5. A positive correlation was found between progesterone levels and brain activations during processing of emotionally charged images in both healthy and schizophrenia men, but no significant relationship was revealed in women. These preliminary results indicate that progesterone is significantly associated with brain activations during processing of positive and negative affect in healthy and schizophrenia men, but not in women. Further investigation is warranted. 1. Introduction There is some evidence of a relationship between sex-steroid hormones (i.e., estrogen, testosterone, and less commonly progesterone) and emotion processing in the general population [1–3]. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone have been linked with increased vulnerability to mood disorders in women, while elevated levels of testosterone have been primarily associated with antisocial behaviours, behaviours of dominance, and aggressiveness in both men and women [4]. In schizophrenia, some studies have found abnormal levels of estrogens and testosterone in patients, but the results have been equivocal and sometimes attributed to the antipsychotic-induced hyperprolactinemia, which may alter levels of gonadal hormones [5]. Despite numerous studies and clinical observations of lower relapse of clinical symptoms during pregnancy, high relapse postpartum, and the fluctuation of symptoms across the menstrual cycle (attributed typically to the changing levels of estrogens), a link between progesterone and affect in schizophrenia has yet to be examined [6]. The little emphasis that has been placed on the relationship between progesterone and emotional functioning has been explored primarily in healthy women because this hormone is a female reproductive hormone. Nonetheless, it is produced in both men and women, and recent evidence suggests that it is implicated in brain function of both sexes. Thus, progesterone has been shown to play an important role in mood regulation [7],

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