Aims: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a psychiatric condition that is associated with the menstrual cycle. Elucidation of the neural regulation mechanisms of brain reactivity to emotional stimuli among women with PMDD may inform PMDD treatment.

Methods: Eighty-six women (42 PMDD, 44 healthy controls) were allocated into two groups (anger-induced group: 23 PMDD vs. 23 controls; depression-induced group: 19 PMDD vs. 21 controls). During the luteal phases of the menstrual cycle, all the women were subjected to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI resting-state scans were performed before and after the study participants had performed an emotional stimuli task. After the emotional stimuli task, emotional status of the participants were evaluated by Self-Rating Depression Scales (SDS) and Trait Anger Expression Inventory–II (STAXI-II). In addition, all the participants were requested to complete the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) and the Twenty-Item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20).

Results: Compared to healthy controls, all women with PMDD exhibited significantly high scores in Tas-20 (p<0.001), higher neuroticism and psychoticism scores as well as significantly low extraversion and social desirability scores (p<0.05). Compared to the controls, f-MRI revealed that PMDD women had elevated ReHo in the middle frontal gyrus (BA10), temporal lobe (BA42), left cerebellum (BA37), as well as decreased activation in the precuneus (BA7), superior frontal gyrus (BA8), lobulus paracentralis (BA6), and right cerebellum (BA48) (p<0.05). Moreover, depression stimuli showed that women with PMDD had elevated ReHo levels in the middle frontal gyrus (BA11), the middle gyrus (BA47) and in the cingulate gyrus (BA23) vs. healthy controls (p<0.05).

Conclusions: Women with more neuroticism and psychoticism, less extraversion and social desirability tend to report PMDD symptoms. Women with this condition experience difficulties in regulating emotions during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Abnormal ReHo levels in the precuneus, superior frontal gyrus, lobulus paracentralis, and right cerebellum may contribute to anger dysregulation. Hypoactivation in the middle frontal gyrus, the middle gyrus and the cingulate gyrus may be generally associated with depression dysregulation in PMDD.