Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Females are more proactive, males are more reactive: neural basis of the gender-related speed/accuracy trade-off in visuo-motor tasks

Females are more proactive, males are more reactive: neural basis of the gender-related speed/accuracy trade-off in visuo-motor tasks. V. Bianco et al. Brain Structure and Function, December 3 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00429-019-01998-3

Abstract: In the present study, we investigated neural correlates associated with gender differences in a simple response task (SRT) and in a discriminative response task (DRT) by means of event-related potential (ERP) technique. 120 adults participated in the study, and, based on their sex, were divided into two groups matched for age and education level. Behavioral performance was assessed with computing response speed, accuracy rates and response consistency. Pre- and post-stimulus ERPs were analyzed and compared between groups. Results indicated that males were faster than females in all tasks, while females were more accurate and consistent than males in the more complex tasks. This different behavioral performance was associated with distinctive ERP features. In the preparation phase, males showed smaller prefrontal negativity (pN) and visual negativity (vN), interpreted as reduced cognitive preparation to stimulus occurrence and reduced reliance on sensory proactive readiness, respectively. In the post-stimulus phase, gender differences were present over occipital (P1, N1, P2 components) and prefrontal (pN1, pP1, pP2 components) areas, suggesting allocation of attentional resources at distinct stages of information processing in the two groups. Overall, the present data provide evidence in favor of a more proactive and cautious cognitive processing in females and a more reactive and fast cognitive processing in males. In addition, we confirm that (1) gender is an important variable to be considered in ERP studies on perceptual processing and decision making, and (2) the pre-stimulus component analysis can provide useful information concerning neural correlates of upcoming performance.

Keywords: Gender differences Speed–accuracy trade-off Motor behavior Proactive control Decision making Predictive brain

Present data suggest that in simple and complex visuo-motor tasks, males and females allocate their cortical resources in diverse ways, possibly leading to the well-documented gender-related speed/accuracy trade-off in visuo-motor per-formance. When the task is very simple, both preparatory (the BP) and reactive (the pP1, P2 and P3) cortical process-ing are enhanced in males with respect to females, leading to faster responses. When the task is more complex (implying stimulus discrimination and response selection), females’ proactive allocation of more cortical resources at both pre-frontal (pN) and sensory (vN) level, as well as several reac-tive stages after stimulus onset (the pN1, the P1, and the P3), leads to relatively slow and very accurate responses. In contrast, males allocate a reduced level of pre-stimulus sustained attention to the task (smaller pN and vN), possi-bly compensating with enhanced reactive attention at visual level processing (larger N1 and P2). Even though the neu-ral processing associated with S–R mapping (the pP2) is generally enhanced in males (for both target and non-target stimuli), signals associated to different stimulus categories are less distinguishable in males than females, as indicated by dpP2 effect, possibly facilitating female accuracy in a complex task.

Present research provides evidence that gender is an important variable to be considered in neurocognitive studies of perceptual decision making; this variable should be considered while planning experimental designs or interpreting the results because, per se, could explain the speed/accuracy trade-off in visuo-motor performance and relative differences in brain functions. In contrast, some studies excluded females from their samples or ignored gender as a factor in their findings (for review see Mendrek 2015), possibly jeopardizing their results’ interpretation.

No comments:

Post a Comment