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The surprising cognitive benefits of menstruation


While menstruation is often associated with discomfort, a groundbreaking study reveals a silver lining — improved cognitive abilities during this phase. Research published in the journal Neuropsychologia indicates that women may experience faster reaction times and fewer errors while on their periods despite commonly feeling unwell.

Study insights

Conducted by University College London and the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, the study involved 241 women who underwent cognitive tests 14 days apart to cover different menstrual cycle phases. Surprisingly, participants performed better on tasks requiring inhibition, attention, reaction time, and accuracy during menstruation than the luteal phase, which follows ovulation and precedes the period.

Understanding the performance boost

The exact reasons for this cognitive boost are not fully understood. However, fluctuations in hormones like progesterone, which peaks during the luteal phase and drops during menstruation, may play a role. These hormonal shifts could affect the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for critical functions such as memory, thinking, and problem-solving, potentially explaining the observed changes in reaction times.

Risk of injuries and hormonal influence

Previous sports medicine research inspired this study by suggesting women are more susceptible to sports injuries during the luteal phase. The hormonal changes during this time may affect the timing of movements, contributing to a higher incidence of injuries.

Broader implications

Although the study was initially focused on athletes, the findings are relevant to all individuals who menstruate. Timing and movement are crucial in daily activities, indicating that the results have implications beyond sports.

Key takeaways

One of the most empowering takeaways from the study is the reminder that physical discomfort does not necessarily equate to decreased performance. On the contrary, women may find that they are cognitively sharper during their period than they realize.