The processing of highly salient and biologically relevant emotional stimuli: gender differences and relationship to sex steroids

Duration of the project

01.06.2020. - 15.11.2020.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

University of Vilnius
University of Tübingen
University of Tartu

Project Manager

Assoc. Prof. Ramune Griksiene

Project goals

Evolutionary models of emotion postulate the prioritized processing of emotional stimuli that have higher significance for surviving and reproduction, such as erotica or mutilations. Distorted perception and inability to regulate elicited emotions affects socioemotional behavior and may even facilitate the development of mood and anxiety disorders. Emotional and physiological effects of highly arousing stimuli vary between women and men. These differences could contribute to the sex differences in prevalence of mental disorders. Natural fluctuations of sex hormone levels across the female reproductive years (i.e., puberty, menstrual cycle, pregnancy and postpartum period, menopause) impact emotion perception and regulation. In parallel to the natural hormonal changes, millions of women worldwide use hormonal contraceptives. Presumably, the intake of synthetic hormones affects cognitive and emotional functions similar to fluctuations in natural hormones, however, this effect is still poorly investigated.

The aim of the proposed project is to share knowledge and to strengthen cooperation in research of gender differences and the effect of sex steroids on emotion perception and regulation between the projects partners. To do so, a jointly organized emotion perception and regulation study will be performed in Vilnius. Additionally, we plan a meeting, a workshop and conference presentations. Therewith we are convinced to foster international collaboration and scientific exchange in the field of emotion research and psychoneuroendocrinology

Main activities and venues

  1. 22 – 23 June 2020. Project start meeting, will be organized in Vilnius University, Life Sciences Center and online. All members will be present: members from Vilnius and Tartu universities will participate physically, members from University of Tübingen – online. This event will be used for getting to know each other, exchange of ideas and set-up of joint study.
  2. July 2020. Preparation to the „Emotion perception and regulation study“. All partners will be involved.
  3. August – November 2020. The study will be performed at Vilnius University.
  4. 5th November 2020. Pre-conference Workshop „Emotions perception and regulation”, Vilnius University or online (depending on situation).
  5. 6th November 2020. The session dedicated to emotions, sex and sex hormones within 12th annual Conference of the Lithuanian Neuroscience Association. Oral presentations: Prof. Birgit Derntl (University of Tübingen), Andero Uusberg (University of Tartu). Poster presentations: Ann-Christin Kimmig, Ingrida Zelionkaite, Elisa Rehbein. The Conference can be moved to online format due to coronavirus.

Public events

  1. 5th November 2020. The afternoon part of the workshop will be open for public. We plan open lectures (speakers, PhD students, Project team members – Ann-Christin Kimmig, Ingrida Zelionkaite, Elisa Rehbein) and discussion. The public event can be moved online due to coronavirus.
  2. An interview to one of the most popular news websites in Lithuania (; or other).
  3. Information about Project will be shared on websites and social networks: Vilnius University Life science center, Tübingen Neuro Campus, University of Tartu.

Direct and indirect target groups

Direct: Members (post docs, PhD, master and bachelor students) of Dr. Ramune Griksiene group (up to 5), Prof. Birgit Derntl group (up to 4) and Project participants from University of Tartu Institute of Psychology (up to 3 researchers).


  • Workshop participants – students of Vilnius, Tartu and Tübingen Universities (up to 30 participants).
  • Participants of the 12th Conference of the Lithuanian Neuroscience Association, 6th November, 2020, Vilnius, Lithuania (up to 150 participants).
  • Scientific community, related to the research of emotions, sex differences and effect of sex steroids would benefit upon the dissemination of research results:
  • Publication is planned.
  • Symposium in an International Conference “Psychology and Brain” organized by German Psychological Association, Division for Biological Psychology/Neuropsychology, Tübingen, June 2021.
  • Presentations at other international conferences.