Laurie and Debbie say:
Back in October, we made fun of a junk science study done in the departments of behavioral communications and psychology at UCLA, with thirty subjects and forty-two researchers, coming to the drastically exciting conclusion that ovulating women are more likely to dress to attract men then women in other stages of their menstrual cycle.
Now, researchers at the National Institutes for Mental Health have outdone UCLA. This time, it’s the serious neurobiologists, and here’s the kind of language they use to make a related point, this one being that women in the “midfollicular phase” of the menstrual cycle are more interested in monetary reward. That’s a pretty major statement.
Here we show that during the midfollicular phase (days 4-8 after onset of menses) women anticipating uncertain rewards activated the orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala more than during the luteal phase (6-10 days after luteinizing hormone surge). At the time of reward delivery, women in the follicular phase activated the midbrain, striatum, and left fronto-polar cortex more than during the luteal phase. These data demonstrate augmented reactivity of the reward system in women during the midfollicular phase when estrogen is unopposed by progesterone. Moreover, investigation of between-sex differences revealed that men activated ventral putamen more than women during anticipation of uncertain rewards, whereas women more strongly activated the anterior medial prefrontal cortex at the time of reward delivery.
There’s lots more heavy science in the full paper, which is here. When Debbie came across this a couple of days ago, she could smell the “junk science” in all the technical terminology. On page six of the seven pages of this paper we find out that this was not a 30-woman study. It was not a 20-woman study. No, they drew these exciting conclusions from 13 women, only 11 of whom actually qualified to be tested!
Now, with this huge and convincing sample, how did they test interest in monetary reward?
By showing them images of slot machines.
Here’s how we see it: folks at the NIMH are going to get tenure, or new grants, or whatever academic honors they’re seeking, by showing 11 women (and a few men) pictures of slot machines and making highly technical observations of their brains with lots of expensive equipment. Then they’re going to tell us that women who are halfway to ovulation are susceptible to monetary reward.
Here at Body Impolitic, we want to know why these questions are so important to researchers. (Interestingly enough, some of the researchers in both studies appear to be women, though the preponderance of the neurobiologists are apparently men.) We can’t help imagining a group of men in a Starbuck’s, thinking that they can get their Ph.D.’s and improve their chances of gettting laid at the same time.
Advice for researchers: 1) don’t ask the women you meet where they are in their cycle to find out whether they’re more interested in monetary rewards or in looking good. It could get you slugged, and besides, the woman you’re asking probably wasn’t one of the 11 women in the study.
Thanks to Kestrell for the pointer.