Women's brains change during the menstrual cycle

Women's brains change during the menstrual cycle

A woman's menstrual cycle is governed by the flow of hormones that prepare the body for pregnancy. This symphony of hormones not only transforms the reproductive organs, but, according to recent research, also reshapes the brain.

Two studies published in October performed detailed brain scans of women during their menstrual cycle, revealing that the volume of certain areas changes in sync with hormone levels. The brain areas are those in the limbic system, a group of brain structures that regulate emotion, memory and behavior.

"It's like the brain is in flux every 28 days or so, depending on the length of the cycle," said Erika Comasco, associate professor of women's and children's health at Uppsala University in Sweden, who was not involved in the study. research. "The importance of these studies is that they are building knowledge about the impact of these hormonal fluctuations on the way the brain is structured."

"These brain changes may or may not change how we actually act, think and feel in our daily lives. So the next important steps for science are putting these pieces of the puzzle together," said Adriene Beltz, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, who was also not involved in the research.

How hormones control the menstrual cycle

During a woman's cycle, which marks the start of the menstrual cycle, hormones are at low levels. But they grow dramatically over a few weeks.

Estrogen levels in the blood become eight times higher at ovulation around day 14, while progesterone levels increase by 80-fold approximately seven days later.

A single cycle repeats every 24 to 38 days until menopause, which means the average woman experiences about 450 periods in her lifetime.