Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 4 July 2017

‘Period Brain’ Isn’t A Thing, Science Says

‘Period Brain’ Isn’t A Thing, Science Says

The Debrief: No, not having a period out of your brain, or constantly thinking about your period in the context of 'is my tampon in straight?' but getting a fuzzy brain during your period...yeah, that's apparently not A Thing!

After years and years of being told my men in white coats - both literal and figurative - that our periods drive us ballistic, turning us into awful stereotypes of forgetful, petulant, ice-cream and chocolate gobbling bloat-monsters who weep at the merest sight of a decision, even if said decision is simply how many seconds to microwave the Ben & Jerry's for so it’s easy scoop-able, a woman in a white coat has proved that ‘period brain’ is just not a thing.

Professor Brigitte Leeners lead the team of scientists at University Hospital Zurich in the biggest research project of its kind to discover that the cognitive function of the brain is in no way impaired by the average woman’s period-time hormonal fluctuations, reports The Times.

Somehow, previous scientists had got it into their brains - and medical journals - that the changing levels of progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone affected the prefrontal cortex in the brain. Their theories went that this would affect a woman’s memory, judgment and/or the ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

But, writing in medical journal Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, Professor Leeners said of this new study: ‘I deal with many women who have the impression that the menstrual cycle influences their well-being and cognitive performance. ‘ Although there might be exceptions, women’s cognitive performance in general is not disturbed by hormonal changes.’

And there’s a split in how to respond to this: some of us are very happy that it’s finally been proven that periods, a natural part of most young women’s lives, don’t make us any different from our male counterparts.

But, on the flipside, would it be catastrophic if women were to maybe be proven to process things in different ways to men? Of course any proof of this would be seized by the wrong types of men (and women) to make some sort of politicised statement about how the pay gap is justified or something atrocious like that. But really, objectively, what’s so wrong with women’s hormones affecting their minds as well as their bodies? If the world was built to help women reach their potential in the same way it does for men, different shouldn’t mean lesser.

And besides, how do you really measure brain power? Anyone who’s managed to change a leaky tampon at 3am and then swallow a painkiller the size of a horse tranquilliser without gagging all while half-asleep surely is a genius here, right? But maybe when we're on our periods having to spend time thinking about how to make sure it's all mopped up, our mind is a little - justifiably - distracted. Plus, any moodiness and irritability that a woman feels ahead of her period…maybe that’s just all her tolerance to bullshit just falling away?

We’ve got a load of questions, as does Professor Leeners, who will be continuing her research in this area. She explained that while the findings are a ‘meaningful step forward’, her team needs to research more women, including those with hormonal disorders, as well as running more cognitive tests. In the meantime, it’s good to know we’re not hysterical old harpies, we guess.

If you liked this, you might also be interested in:

Is The Pill Causing Depression?

Ask An Adult: What Happens To My Body The Week Before My Period?

Period Brain: Why Do I Feel Stupid When I'm On My Period?

Tags: Science Says, Periods