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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Females Fighting During the Luteal Phase of the Menstrual Cycle May Be Dealing With a More Active Amygdala (Fear, etc)

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I've only speed read a pretty densely worded study summation, so I'm dropping this here for a re-read, and for others who might find this interesting. Looking into the emotional and mood dynamics surrounding elevated progesterone - not only naturally occurring, but also supplementally so - it appears that the sensitivity of the amygdala is a real possible factor. As the article suggests, these are very complex mechanisms, and you can't just say that "fear goes up" (for instance it also suggests that the ability to also reassess fear responses, and have control over them, also goes up), but this does possibly coincide with experiences Sylvie has reported in her sparring and training in general. There are times that she will have fear responses that are not cognitively fear driven, as if her body is just responding fearfully, almost independent of her thoughts and conscious beliefs. Or, experiences of physical touch sensitivity, almost a nerveyness, a rawness, not wanting to be touched, but still having to spar. We haven't correlated this to the luteal phase, having just begun looking into this, but...this could be a pretty huge and seldom discussed dimension of emotional shifts of female fighters in training and fighting. You may have one emotional spectrum and sensitivity at Day 8, in the Follicular phase, and a completely different one at Day 20 in the Luteal phase. Some set of events or circumstances at Day 8 may produce one set of mental and physical responses, and quite another at Day 20. And, if you are fighting at a progesterone peak period, knowing that your amygdala and related systems could be heightened, is probably a really important framework to be thinking about, in terms of performance, catch-safes, anticipation, recovery and self-forgiveness (if overcome at times). And, this could also have some bearing on progesterone birth control methods and how they might effect your emotional spectrum, the ability to overcome fear conditions, etc. It's not something as plain and simple as a fighter's concern: Fear goes up during the Luteal phase, as also it is suggested that alertness might go up as well, which may aid in fighting, but if one could have a differing set of criteria of self-judgement, based on where in the cycle one is, and even two (or more) sets of criteria, and skill requirements, for differing areas of the cycle, that may be of real importance. We tend to judge ourselves on a very flat, inflexible scale of perfection. [edit: reading further down in this thread, the amygdala has right and left hemispheres which play different roles. Differing hemispheres in the menstrual cycle are heightened in women, generally it is the left hemisphere which is heightened during the Luteal phase, but not always so]

In any case, worth thinking about and reading more into.

Progesterone selectively increases amygdala reactivity in women

https://www.nature.com/articles/4002030

2142632465_MenstruationandFear.thumb.PNG.15b460fe4fb7e4b06258f1870d448ea6.PNG

1288624950_menstruationandfear2.PNG.62c4495f92fc532ee6b0e51444b4e836.PNG

 

Edit in:

A graphic of the main notes taken from the studies in the thread. It's important to note that these are narrow studies, and women can have the columns or rows reversed, individually based on history or individually. More important maybe is tracking your own pattern. These are just aspects that are hormonally in play.

cycles.thumb.PNG.ecb839e629578287466ea2c38748275f.PNG

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Important and interesting in terms of the development as a female fighter, one of the roles of the amygdala is in terms of long term memory consolidation, and fear-conditioning. Events that are fear inducing become encoded in the long term memory as lessons learned. A very obvious application of this prospective idea is that female athletes (fighters) are often put through "toughening up" training, to ostensibly to mimic similar things boys/men go through, and to train-in more "masculine" coded responses. Just very broadly thinking, if the amygdala is stimulated during the Luteal phase, when fear-conditioning sensitivity may be at its highest, this would be the worst time to do this kind of thing. You could be potentially hard-coding negative responses. On the other hand, positive emotional coding of learned behavior during this time, might find itself in long term memory more easily? Though this study suggests that positive rewards have strongest effect during the follicular phase. The emotional component of memory is perhaps enhanced.

more on emotional coding in women and the left amygdala:

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Cahill and others (2001) used PET to image brain activity while men and women watched either highlyaversive films or neutral films. The level of amygdala activity at encoding predicted later emotional memoryperformance for both males and females. However, for females, this relation was found in the left amygdalawhereas for males it was in the right amygdala. A later study by Canli and others (2002) examined brain activi-ty in men and women during the encoding of emotional and neutral scenes in photographs, using fMRI.Consistent with the prior PET study, amygdala activity during the encoding of the most emotionally arousing photographs was strongly related to later recognition memory for the emotional pictures, but again this relationship was seen in the left amygdala for women and the right amygdala for men. The strength of an emotion-al experience, referred to as emotional arousal, is currently thought to be the most important factor that deter-mines the degree of memory enhancement associated with an emotional event (Hamann and others 1999;Canli and others 2000). source

 

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Note: the study was trying to isolate the mechanistic effects apart from the menstrual cycle (perhaps for birth control application reasons):

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By administering progesterone instead of comparing neural activity during the luteal (high progesterone and estradiol) and the follicular phases (low progesterone and estradiol), the results of this study provide a mechanistic account for a hormone–brain interaction that is not confounded by (spurious) effects linked to the menstrual cycle.

 

This study (paywalled) found that it was the left amygdala that was heightened during the Luteal phase:

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We found higher left amygdala/hippocampal activation during the luteal phase and higher right amygdala/hippocampal activation during the follicular phase. Additionally, the anterior cingulate cortex and temporal pole showed increased activation during the luteal phase and the superior temporal gyrus during the follicular phase.

 

The Left Amygdala has a heightened ability to detected fear in facial expressions:

The left amygdala knows fear: laterality in the amygdala response to fearful eyes

 

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For women, the level of activity in the left amygdala recorded using PET or fMRI during an emotional event correlates strongly with the probability that the event will be remembered on a later memory test, whereas activity in the right amygdala is not related to subsequent memory performance. source

 

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more on the left amygdala and fear conditioning

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This instructed fear task models a primary way humans learn about the emotional nature of events. Subjects were told that one stimulus (threat) represents an aversive event (a shock may be given), whereas another (safe) represents safety (no shock will be given). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), activation of the left amygdala was observed in response to threat versus safe conditions, which correlated with the expression of the fear response as measured by skin conductance.

 

Whether the left or right amygdala is heightened in the Luteal phase is not consistent among women. PMDD women have differing profiles

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Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) with luteal phase related anxiety and mood swings compromise quality of life in around 4% of reproductive women. While anxiety is related to amygdala function, prior studies on amygdala reactivity both in healthy controls and women with PMDD are inconsistent with respect to menstrual cycle effects. Here women with PMDD and healthy controls were exposed to emotional faces during the mid-follicular and late luteal phase, and mean blood-oxygen-level dependence (BOLD) signal changes in the amygdala were determined with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Women with PMDD had enhanced bilateral amygdala reactivity in the follicular phase in comparison with healthy controls, but there was no difference between groups during the luteal phase. In contrast, healthy controls displayed higher left amygdala reactivity in the luteal than in their follicular phase. However, among women with PMDD follicular phase progesterone serum concentrations were positively correlated with bilateral amygdala reactivity while depression scores were positively correlated with right amygdala reactivity in the luteal phase. In addition, women with PMDD and high scores on trait anxiety had increased right amygdala reactivity in the luteal as compared to the follicular phase. Finally, amygdala reactivity was more prone to habituation in women with PMDD, as they had enhanced amygdala reactivity in comparison with controls at the first, but not the second scanning session. Thus, while the study failed to indicate increased luteal phase amygdala reactivity in women with PMDD, our findings suggest that anxiety proneness and progesterone levels modulate menstrual cycle related amygdala reactivity in women with PMDD.

 

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Study cited above, the Anterior cingulate cortex was also heightened in the Luteal phase. This correlates to the emotional experience of physical and social pain (wiki):

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The ACC is the cortical area that has been most frequently linked to the experience of pain.[29] It appears to be involved in the emotional reaction to pain rather than to the perception of pain itself.[30]

Evidence from social neuroscience studies have suggested that, in addition to its role in physical pain, the ACC may also be involved in monitoring painful social situations as well, such as exclusion or rejection.

 

as well as skews towards errors, and difficulties in self-confidence:

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A more comprehensive and recent theory describes the ACC as a more active component and poses that it detects and monitors errors, evaluates the degree of the error, and then suggests an appropriate form of action to be implemented by the motor system. Earlier evidence from electrical studies indicate the ACC has an evaluative component, which is indeed confirmed by fMRI studies. The dorsal and rostral areas of the ACC both seem to be affected by rewards and losses associated with errors. During one study, participants received monetary rewards and losses for correct and incorrect responses, respectively. ......The researchers found greater rostral ACC activation when participants lost money during the trials. The participants reported being frustrated when making mistakes. Because the ACC is intricately involved with error detection and affective responses, it may very well be that this area forms the bases of self-confidence.

 

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A (paywall) study examining the differences in amygdala response in natural and oral contraceptive Luteal phases:

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All participants were examined in the follicular phase of a baseline cycle and in the third week of the subsequent cycle during treatment with either a combined OC (30 μg ethinyl estradiol/0.15 mg levonorgestrel) or placebo. The latter time point targeted the midluteal phase in placebo users and steady-state ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel concentrations in OC users. Amygdala and salience network connectivity generally increased with both higher endogenous and synthetic hormone levels, although amygdala–parietal cortical connectivity decreased in OC users. When in the luteal phase, the naturally cycling placebo users demonstrated higher connectivity in both networks compared with the women receiving OCs. Our results support a causal link between the exogenous administration of synthetic hormones and amygdala and salience network connectivity.

 

Regions of the parietal cortex are thought to be involved fundamentally in spatial processing and the control of action.

The follicular and reward sensitivity.

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In the Luteal phase the high level of progesterone has been shown to have an analgesic effect:

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We demonstrate that physiologically high progesterone levels are associated with a reduction in the affective component of the pain experience and a dissociation between pain intensity and unpleasantness. This dissociation is related to decreased functional connectivity between the inferior frontal gyrus and amygdala. Moreover, we have shown that in the pre-ovulatory state, the traditionally “male” sex hormone, testosterone, is the strongest hormonal regulator of pain-related activity and connectivity within the emotional regulation network. However, following ovulation the traditionally “female” sex hormones, estradiol and progesterone, appear to dominate.

...We describe a state of “luteal analgesia,” during which the physiologically high levels of sex steroids seen after ovulation are associated with a specific reduction in the emotional component of pain and reduced brain activation in response to noxious stimuli.

 

source

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this study finds a stronger amygdala reaction to fearful faces in the follicular phase

 

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In this study we investigated the influence of menstrual cycle phase and the corresponding ovarian hormone levels on amygdala activation while completing an explicit emotion recognition task. Both groups demonstrated amygdala activation during emotion processing, however, ROI-based direct comparison revealed significantly stronger activation in the follicular group (FPG). Additionally, more pronounced activation in temporal and hippocampal regions in the FPG emerged. Applying partial correlations, we observed significant negative associations between amygdala response to fearful, sad, and neutral faces and progesterone levels. These findings suggest stronger amygdala activation in females with lower progesterone levels characterizing the first period of the menstrual cycle, thereby supporting results of previous studies (Protopopescu et al., 2005; Goldstein et al., 2005) that suggest a more excitable emotional network in the preovulatory state.

In particular, facial expressions of disgust and happiness elicited significantly stronger amygdala activation in the FPG group. This might not only be linked to the better performance, as results from Macrae et al. (2002) indicate that females are more interested in social signals and interactions during the follicular phase when they are fertile and in better mood then during the luteal phase which might enhance mating chances (see also Gangestad et al., 2007). Accordingly, they might also tend to exert more attention on emotional expressions as a basis for more successful interaction and generally higher social competence in the follicular phase in accordance to our results. In contrast, mood is more negative during the luteal phase and we speculate that more successful social interactions implying a higher chance to find adequate mating partners are no longer of primary interest in the luteal phase, hence high progesterone levels might be linked to a reduced or biased sensitivity to social signals and social interaction which might also be reflected in the significantly less amygdala activation.

 

 

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Women in the midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle have difficulty suppressing the processing of negative emotional stimuli: An event-related potential study

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These findings suggest midluteal women may be significantly less able to suppress cortical processing of negative stimuli compared to men. This ERP finding was complemented by behavioral ratings data which revealed that while both early follicular and midluteal women reported more distress than men, midluteal women also reported greater effort when suppressing their responses than men.

...The current study provides novel evidence that menstrual phase may impact on cortical processing during suppression of negative emotional responses. Specifically, midluteal women revealed increased N2 amplitude following suppression instruction and reported greater distress levels and effort when suppressing compared to men, suggesting they have less capacity to suppress cortical processing of unpleasant stimuli relative to men. In addition, midluteal women reported greater early automatic attentional processing of negative emotional stimuli.

 

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pain is processed very differently in the Luteal phase, and is experienced more acutely:

Different Brain Activation Patterns to Pain and Pain-related Unpleasantness during the Menstrual Cycle

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The pain and unpleasantness ratings were significantly higher in the luteal phase than in the follicular. During the anticipation of pain, the prefrontal cortices were activated during the follicular phase, whereas the parahippocampal gyrus and amygdala were activated during the luteal phase. During the pain stimulation, putamen and cerebellum and precentral gyrus involving motor preparation and defense mechanism related to antinociceptive behavior were activated during the follicular phase, whereas the thalamus was activated during the luteal phase. During the poststimulation periods, the prefrontal cortices were activated during the follicular phase, whereas parahippocampal gyrus was activated during the luteal phase. The temporal pole was activated during the anticipation, pain stimulation, and poststimulation periods of the luteal phase.

A graphic summarizing some of the above:

1712597007_MyPost(27).thumb.jpg.aac9c2c094a12178cf2d8de2b40d9252.jpg

 

 

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Fear conditioning enhanced during the Luteal phase:

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Twenty female college students in luteal phase and 20 female college students in menses phase participated in the experiment. They were exposed to three conditions: 1) predictable aversive stimuli were signaled by a cue; 2) aversive stimuli were administered unpredictably; 3) no aversive stimuli were anticipated. Aversive unconditioned stimulus (US) expectancy was used to assess anxious responses to the threat cue and to contexts associated with each condition. The results showed that, at the acquisition stage, females in luteal phase (FL) showed higher US-expectancy for the conditioned context fear in N and P contexts than females in menses phase (FM); at the extinction stage, FL had a significantly higher US-expectancy in N and P contexts compared to FM. In other words, FL acquired the conditioned context fear response more effectively and extinguished more slowly than FM. These data suggest that menstrual cycle can possibly influence the conditioned context fear responses in females.

 

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The left amygdala is more attuned to fear expressions in others (luteal, perhaps):

The left amygdala knows fear: laterality in the amygdala response to fearful eyes

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The right amygdala showed a significant response to fear and gaze shifts, which were closely matched for EWA increase, as well as to happy and control eyes where EWA decreased or did not change, respectively. Furthermore, there was no significant difference between the strength of response to these conditions in the right amygdala. In contrast, the left amygdala showed a significant response only to fear and this activation was greater relative to that of the other conditions. A post hoc comparison revealed that there were hemispheric differences in the selectivity of the amygdala to changes in the eye region associated with different expressions. These results provide evidence that the right amygdala may act as a course detector of eye change, regardless of the emotional and behavioral significance behind the change. In contrast, the left amygdala showed selectivity to eye changes typically associated with fear, suggesting that the activation may be driven by more than just increases in scleral field size and that other features, such as iris and pupil position, may also contribute to the response.

...Morris et al. (1999) show the right amygdala rapidly and non-selectively detects stimuli that pose a potential threat to the observer. Additionally, it can mediate the processing of emotional stimuli without awareness (Morris et al., 1999), can be activated by any arousing stimulus (Glascher and Adolphs, 2003) and habituates faster than the left amygdala (Wright et al., 2001), affirming the lack of selectivity by the right amygdala and suggesting that it acts as a general detector of overall change. The left amygdala, on the other hand, has indirectly been shown to discriminate between different emotional expressions (Morris et al., 1996; Kim et al., 2003; Whalen et al., 2004) and its response to fearful eyes can be mediated by the facial context in which the eyes appear (Morris et al., 2002). It has also been shown to be sensitive to the interaction between gaze direction and emotional expression (Adams et al., 2003), illustrating a higher level of discrimination compared with that of the right amygdala.

...Additionally, overall greater activation in the right amygdala than the left to fearful faces compared with neutral faces has been reported in fMRI studies (Noesselt et al., 2005). Such findings are congruous with behavioral results indicating that subjects are faster at identifying fearful vs neutral faces when they are presented to the left visual field (Benowitz et al., 1983). Consistent with these findings, we found mainly that the response to fearful eyes was greater in the right hemisphere than the left hemisphere however, the more selective response in the left compared with the right suggests that the role of each hemisphere in threat processing is more complicated than has been previously considered. It is possible that the right amygdala activates to all conditions simply because a change is occurring to the eyes, a notion supported by an emotional information processing model proposed by Glascher and Adolphs (2003). This model suggests that the right amygdala acts in an automatic, rapid manner and is responsible for initiating a general level of arousal in response to stimuli.

 

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Left amygdala sensitivity to angry, emotional voice: study

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However, only left (not right) amygdala damage appeared to abolish the emotional enhancement beyond this generally reduced response to human voices. Finally, in trials where angry voices were presented on the to-be-ignored ear, right MTL patients also showed activity in the right TTG. This finding might indicate enhanced sensory processing for acoustic features of emotional voices in low-level auditory areas driven by a remote influence of the amygdala under conditions when attention is not focused on the side of the angry voice

 

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Early visual processing is enhanced in the midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle

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These results indicate that women have greater early automatic visual processing compared to men, and suggests that this effect is particularly strong in women in the midluteal phase at the earliest stage of visual attention processing. Our findings highlight the importance of considering menstrual phase when examining sex differences in the cortical processing of visual stimuli.

 

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In some Follicular = left, Luteal = right

from wikipedia, the amygdala

Hemispheric specializations

In one study, electrical stimulations of the right amygdala induced negative emotions, especially fear and sadness. In contrast, stimulation of the left amygdala was able to induce either pleasant (happiness) or unpleasant (fear, anxiety, sadness) emotions.[10] Other evidence suggests that the left amygdala plays a role in the brain's reward system.[11]

Each side holds a specific function in how we perceive and process emotion. The right and left portions of the amygdala have independent memory systems, but work together to store, encode, and interpret emotion.

The right hemisphere is associated with negative emotion.[12][13] It plays a role in the expression of fear and in the processing of fear-inducing stimuli. Fear conditioning, which occurs when a neutral stimulus acquires aversive properties, occurs within the right hemisphere. When an individual is presented with a conditioned, aversive stimulus, it is processed within the right amygdala, producing an unpleasant or fearful response. This emotional response conditions the individual to avoid fear-inducing stimuli and more importantly, to assess threats in the environment.

The right hemisphere is also linked to declarative memory, which consists of facts and information from previously experienced events and must be consciously recalled. It also plays a significant role in the retention of episodic memory. Episodic memory consists of the autobiographical aspects of memory, permitting recall of emotional and sensory experience of an event. This type of memory does not require conscious recall. The right amygdala plays a role in the association of time and places with emotional properties.[14]

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one study:

the left amygdalais more closely related to affective information encoding with a higher affinity to language and to detailed feature extraction, and the right amygdala to affective information retrieval with a higher affinity to pictorial or image-related material. Furthermore, the right amygdala may be more strongly engaged than the left one in a fast,shallow or gross analysis of affect-related information.

read the study here:

Differential_Contribution_of_Right_and_Left_Amygda.pdf

They found in 17 normal subjects thatthe evaluation of unpleasant visual stimuli activated(among other regions) the left amygdala. This activa-tion not only held for fear-related, but for a wide rangeof unpleasant stimuli.Studying regional cerebral blood flow changes in re-sponse to the presentation of faces with different emo-tional expressions, has provided a major basis for es-tablishing a differential role of the left and right amyg-dala in cognitive information processing. Interestingresults were obtained in a series of studies by Mor-ris [85, 87, 88]. Morris et al. [85] found enhanced...On the other hand, Mor-ris et al. [87, 88] found a significant neural response inthe right, but not the left, amygdala to masked presen-tations of a conditioned angry face. Combined, thesefindings suggest that unconscious (masked) process-ing is mediated more readily by the right, and con-scious processing more readily by the left amygdala(among other structures).

303985561_Amygdalaleftandright.PNG.02e300736f838805b7931610cc5900cc.PNG

 

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This study suggests that sexual abuse victims and those with PTSD have a heightened anxiety response to fearful AND neutral faces, through the left amygdala. In female fighters it is possible that Luteal Phase left amygdala stimulation could amplify this:

image.png.9376314df14e3e969f1c35bfdda78577.png

read it here:

Amygdala habituation to emotional faces in adolescents with internalizing disorders, adolescents with childhood sexual abuse related PTSD and healthy adolescents

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This study found that those with physical abuse in childhood (as differing from sexual abuse), had a heightened reaction to sad faces, due to the right amygdala (which broadly, maybe more stimulated in the follicular phase):

Childhood Trauma History Differentiates Amygdala Response to Sad Faces within MDD

908990463_sadright.PNG.aa584b538ee77d914ab99d7053f45249.PNG

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