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

V. Bianco, M. Berchicci, F. Quinzi, R. L. Perri, D. Spinelli, F. Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology


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