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Gender differences in the activation of inferior frontal cortex during emotional speech perception.

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  • Linguistics


We investigated the brain regions that mediate the processing of emotional speech in men and women by presenting positive and negative words that were spoken with happy or angry prosody. Hence, emotional prosody and word valence were either congruous or incongruous. We assumed that an fRMI contrast between congruous and incongruous presentations would reveal the structures that mediate the interaction of emotional prosody and word valence. The left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) was more strongly activated in incongruous as compared to congruous trials. This difference in IFG activity was significantly larger in women than in men. Moreover, the congruence effect was significant in women whereas it only appeared as a tendency in men. As the left IFG has been repeatedly implicated in semantic processing, these findings are taken as evidence that semantic processing in women is more susceptible to influences from emotional prosody than is semantic processing in men. Moreover, the present data suggest that the left IFG mediates increased semantic processing demands imposed by an incongruence between emotional prosody and word valence.

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