Why Scientists Wrongly Thought Periods Prevented Women from Thinking Clearly

According to a new study, "period brain" isn't real. To put this in more sophisticated terms, researchers have found no evidence that cognitive function is impaired by hormonal changes during a woman's menstrual cycle. 

The study, the biggest of its kind, was published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience last week; it followed 68 women over two menstrual cycles, and assessed memory, attention, cognitive bias, and hormone levels throughout both. In news may not surprise anyone with a period and a brain, the researchers concluded that, in general, a person's menstrual cycle has no effect on her ability to think clearly, make decisions, or concentrate on two things at once.

"The results aren't surprising," says Joan Chrisler, a psychology professor at Connecticut College and president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. "We've known there's no effect for years."

For centuries, however, doctors have argued otherwise. The idea that menstruation makes women "crazy" has persisted since Ancient Greek times, when Hippocrates suggested women's wombs wandered around their abdomens, causing depression and madness….

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Misha Gajewski