Related Topics: Hormones, Opinion, Research

Can’t Focus – Could It Be Your Hormones?

Why the time of the month makes a difference to how sluggish you are

AnnA Rushton

A new research study from Concordia University in Quebec, Canada, and published in the journal Brain and Cognition shows that high estrogen levels are associated with an inability to pay attention and learn.  In other words, ‘it’s not me it’s me hormones!’, can now be your rallying cry when trying to locate your keys/glasses/cat!

Apparently feeling a little sluggish and having trouble concentrating can be blamed on your hormones and this is the first such paper to report on this direct effect of estrogen on mature brain structures. Not sure when they are calling our brains ‘mature’ but I guess any time post 50 is sure to crop up somewhere.

Wayne Brake, an associate professor at Concordia’s Center for Studies in Behavioural Neurobiology  puts it like this: “Although estrogen is known to play a significant role in learning and memory, there has been no clear consensus on its effect. Our findings, using a well-established model of learning called latent inhibition, shows conclusively that high estrogen levels inhibit the cognitive ability in female rodents.”

Latent inhibition (in case you are interested) is observed in many species and is believed to be the important part of learning, which enables individuals to interact successfully in their environment. It is a test of new memory formation.

Well rats are one thing, but as women have high estrogen levels while they are ovulating they conclude that these high levels have also been shown to interfere with women’s ability to pay attention.  They haven’t taken into account the fact that hormones or not, most humans only pay attention when they are interested – or being forced to attend – but as a theory it is certainly worth investigating.

Plus you can always trot it out when you have been daydreaming when listening to a boring conversation about the best route to Watford or the latest football game – or is that just me?


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