Science reveals the surprising truth about “period brain”

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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We’re no strangers to the aches, cramps and mood swings that roll around every month with the arrival of our periods.

And for some of us, this blessed time of the month can also feel like it’s accompanied by “period brain”, a fun phenomenon in which we feel more forgetful and less able to concentrate thanks to the increase in hormones flooding through our bodies.

Previous scientific studies around “period brain” have suggested that women can be more impulsive and moody before their periods, before becoming more rational once their menstrual cycle has ended.

However, a new group of scientists believe they have found enough evidence to debunk the “period brain” myth once and for all, with the largest study of its kind finding no direct link between periods and cognitive ability.

Published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the study examined whether a woman’s period affected her memory, concentration, cognitive bias and ability to multitask.

The researchers tested the cognitive functioning and hormone levels of 88 women at four different points throughout their menstrual cycles, before retesting 68 of them at the same points during their following menstrual cycles. 

They found that, while there were a couple of hormonal changes in cognitive functioning for women during their first periods, these changes were not replicated during the second periods. This led them to conclude that there is not  enough “consistent association” to prove that the “period brain” does exist.

In a statement regarding the study, lead author Professor Brigitte Leeners, who works in the University Hospital Zürich, 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.”

As is the nature with these sorts of studies, however, Leeners added that more research is needed before the concept of a “period brain” can be completely ruled out – and until then, we’re happy to keep blaming any forgetfulness or lack of concentration on our time of the month.

Your move, science.

Images: iStock / Type A Films


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter