Women can blame their menstrual cycles for plenty of nasty symptoms, from debilitating cramps to blue moods. But while menstruation has long been considered the cause of feeling forgetful or having mental fog (also known as “period brain”), it turns out that cognitive function is not actually compromised during that time of the month, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
To see if menstruation affects how the brain works, Professor Brigitte Leeners, a specialist in reproductive medicine and a psychotherapist, looked at women’s cognitive function across two menstrual cycles. They looked specifically at three areas of aspects of cognition: working memory, cognitive bias (a tendency to think a certain way that’s not necessarily rational), and the ability to pay attention to two things at once.
While Dr. Leeners and her team, from the Medical School Hannover and University Hospital Zürich, observed some changes in thinking during the first cycle, none of those changes showed up in the following cycle. The team concluded that fluctuating levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone seem to have no consistent effect on the brain’s ability to function, Science Daily reports.
“The hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle do not show any association with cognitive performance,” Dr. Leeners told Science Daily. “Although there might be individual exceptions, women’s cognitive performance is in general not disturbed by hormonal changes occurring with the menstrual cycle.”
Dr. Leeners believes more work needs to be done on the topic. “Further cognitive tests would provide a fuller picture of the way that the menstrual cycle affects the brain,” she notes. The team is pleased though that their findings could be the first step in changing the way of thinking about how the brain operates during a period.
Here are some unusual symptoms to watch for that could spell trouble during your next period and how to possibly make it through a period without pain.