Background: Men score higher on mental rotation tasks compared to women and suffer from depression and anxiety at half the rate of women. The objective of this study was to confirm the gender-specific effects of depression and anxiety on mental rotation performance. Methods: We collected data in non-experimental conditions from 325 university students at three universities. Participants completed rating scales of depressive and anxiety symptoms, and then simultaneously performed a mental rotation task using tablet devices. Results: We observed no significant difference between men and women in the depressive and anxiety symptoms and task response time. Men had a significantly higher correct answer rate compared with women. The scores of depression and anxiety of all participants were positively correlated. Task response time correlated positively with intensity of depressive symptoms and anxiety in women, but not in men. Women with high depressive symptoms had significantly longer response times than did women with low depressive symptoms, while men had no differences due to depressive symptoms. Limitations: We did not directly examine brain functions; therefore, the underlying neurobiological results are only based on previous knowledge and action data. Conclusions: The pathology of depression and anxiety was reflected in the correct answer rate and response time in relation to the gender difference of brain function used in mental rotation.
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