Increased prevalence of stress-related disorders, including Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), has been a more significant burden on other health issues, quality of life, and the economy, and women are approximately twice as likely to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder as men. The observed sex-specific difference may be partly attributed to the different brain physiology in reward processing between men and women. Here, we sought to identify whether there are sex differences in neural networks during food reward processing, and the results indicate distinct sex differences in the neural circuitry of reward processing in MDD.
Compared to women, men showed decreased FC between the hedonic systems of reward processing after acute stress, suggesting more sensitive or reactive reward circuitry in women to food reward. Our findings identify sex differences in reward circuitry in response to acute stress highlighting new pathways to target for the treatment of stress-related psychiatric conditions.