Moody women can­not blame ‘time of the month’

The Star Early Edition - - HEALTH -

WOMEN have long claimed their monthly pe­riod makes them more ir­ri­ta­ble or stressed.

Now, how­ever, sci­en­tists have said the idea that a woman’s men­strual cy­cle af­fects her think­ing is noth­ing more than a myth.

Ac­cord­ing to some pre­vi­ous stud­ies, women are more im­pul­sive and moody be­fore their pe­riod, and more “ra­tio­nal” af­ter­wards.

But the lat­est re­search says that while women may feel their think­ing be­came al­tered, this was not the case when stud­ied sci­en­tif­i­cally.

It seems that de­spite hor­mone lev­els fluc­tu­at­ing enor­mously in a woman’s body, they have no ef­fect on her abil­ity to re­mem­ber or make de­ci­sions.

The find­ings sug­gest that the cause of the prob­lems may ac­tu­ally lie else­where.

Pro­fes­sor Brigitte Leen­ers and her team ex­am­ined three as­pects of men­tal abil­i­ties over two men­strual cy­cles.

They con­cluded that the lev­els of the hor­mones oe­stro­gen, pro­ges­terone and testos­terone had no im­pact on work­ing mem­ory, which is the abil­ity to re­mem­ber facts while com­plet­ing a task.

Nor did it have any ef­fect on cog­ni­tive bias, the like­li­hood that think­ing would be skewed one way or an­other.

And women were just as able to pay at­ten­tion to two things at once, the re­searchers found.

The au­thors said none of the hor­mones had any repli­ca­ble, con­sis­tent ef­fect on think­ing.

Leen­ers said: “As a spe­cial­ist in re­pro­duc­tive medicine and a psy­chother­a­pist, I deal with many women who have the im­pres­sion that the men­strual cy­cle in­flu­ences their well-be­ing and cog­ni­tive per­for­mance.”

She won­dered whether this anec­do­tal ev­i­dence could be sci­en­tif­i­cally proved, and at­tempted to shed some light on the con­tro­ver­sial topic.

The team, from the Hanover Med­i­cal School and Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal Zurich, mon­i­tored 68 women.

Anal­y­sis of the re­sults from the first cy­cle sug­gested that cog­ni­tive bias and at­ten­tion were af­fected, but these re­sults weren’t repli­cated in the sec­ond cy­cle.

The team looked for dif­fer­ences in per­for­mance be­tween in­di­vid­u­als and changes in in­di­vid­u­als’ per­for­mance over time, and found none.

Leen­ers said: “The hor­monal changes re­lated to the men­strual cy­cle do not show any as­so­ci­a­tion with cog­ni­tive per­for­mance.

“Al­though there might be in­di­vid­ual ex­cep­tions, women’s cog­ni­tive per­for­mance is in gen­eral not dis­turbed by hor­monal changes oc­cur­ring with the men­strual cy­cle.”

She said fur­ther work on larger sam­ples was needed in or­der to of­fer a fuller pic­ture of the way that the men­strual cy­cle af­fects the brain.

Other re­search has found that women of­ten blame feel­ings of stress on their pe­riod – but at other times of the month the com­plaints are at­trib­uted to other causes, such as phys­i­cal ex­er­tion, psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress or even the weather.

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