According to new research, contraceptives like the pill can change the way your memory works — and not just because you're always trying to remember to take the damn thing.
Researchers from UC Irvine found that women using hormonal contraception are better at remember the important points about an event, while women who aren't taking contraceptives are better at recalling details. In the study, women were shown photographs of a mother, her son, and a car accident along with different audio versions of the story. A week later, the subjects were given a surprise quiz on the story. According to EurekAlert:
Women using hormonal contraceptives for as little as one month remembered more clearly the main steps in the traumatic event – that there had been an accident, that the boy had been rushed to the hospital, that doctors worked to save his life and successfully reattached both his feet, for instance. Women not using them remembered more details, such as a fire hydrant next to the car.
Researchers believe that the reason for the shift is that contraceptives suppress estrogen and progesterone. Previous studies have linked these hormones to "left brain" memory. Graduate researcher Shawn Nielsen, who worked on the study, said this doesn't mean hormonal contraceptives are damaging women's memory skills. "It's a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit," she said.
Most users of contraceptives probably haven't even noticed this small shift in their memory skills. However, the finding could explains why women experience conditions like post traumatic stress syndrome more frequently than men by helping scientists understand the differences in how men and women process memories.
Image via lev dolgachov/Shutterstock.