Sex differences in emotional contexts modulation on response inhibition

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The aim of the present study was to explore sex differences in the effects that emotional contexts exert on the temporal course of response inhibition using event-related potentials (ERP). Participants performed a Go-NoGo response inhibition task under 3 context conditions: with 1) neutral background stimuli, and 2) pleasant, and 3) unpleasant emotional contexts. No sex differences were found in relation to accuracy. Women showed higher N2NoGo amplitudes than men in both emotional contexts; whereas during inhibition men tended to show higher P3NoGo amplitudes than women in the unpleasant context. Both groups experienced a relevant effect of the presence of the unpleasant context during inhibition processing, as shown by the enhancement of the N2NoGo amplitudes in frontal regions compared to results from the neutral and pleasant conditions. In addition, women showed differences between the pleasant and unpleasant contexts, with the latter inducing higher amplitude values. Only in men did inhibition accuracy correlate with higher N2NoGo and lower P3NoGo amplitudes in the emotional context conditions. These findings suggest that when an inhibition task is performed in an emotionally-neutral background context no sex differences are observed in either accuracy or ERP components. However, when the emotional context was introduced –especially the unpleasant one– some gender differences did become evident. The higher N2NoGo amplitude at the presence of the unpleasant context may reflect an effect on attention and conflict monitoring. In addition, results suggest that during earlier processing stages, women invested more resources to process inhibition than men. Furthermore, men who invested more neural resources during earlier stages showed better response inhibition than those who did it during later processing stages, more closely-related to cognitive and motor inhibition processes.HIGHLIGHTSSex differences in the effects of emotional contexts on inhibition ERP were explored.Females showed higher N2 amplitudes than males in emotional contexts during inhibition.Pleasant context caused shorter reaction times and longer P3NoGo latency.Inhibition accuracy correlated with higher N2 and lower P3 amplitudes in males.

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