Changes in cognitive task performance across the menstrual cycle

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Examined the effect on cognitive tests of menstrual-cycle-related changes in estrogen in 87 undergraduates. The estrogen peak was expected to facilitate performance of 4 “automatized” tasks and to impair performance of “perceptual-restructuring” tasks, compared with performance in the postovulatory phase when progesterone is thought to counteract the action of estrogen. Daily basal body temperature (BBT) records suggested that 21 Ss did not ovulate in the cycle(s) studied. No main effect of Day 10 of the cycle vs Day 20 occurred for any task in the 66 Ss who did appear to ovulate. However, the magnitude of predicted shifts in performance was significantly correlated with proximity of the “Day 10” testing day to the lowest BBT, the presumed preovulatory estrogen peak; and to the “Day 20” proximity to the highest BBT, the presumed progesterone peak. Ss tested 3 or fewer days before the thermal nadir and on or after the thermal peak had the predicted significant changes on 3 of the 4 tasks. Results support the hypotheses and indicate that precise timing is essential to demonstrate the phenomena. (31 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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