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Birth Control Pill Affects Memory

Posted on 10 September 2011 by admin

k-bigpicAccording to a study at UC Irvine, hormonal contraceptives have a strong effect on the way women remember emotionally charged events.

Researchers tested 72 women who were either naturally cycling or on the pill. Every woman in the study viewed either a brief, narrated story containing “emotionally arousing” elements or one containing only “neutral” elements.

The emotionally arousing narrative told the story of a woman, her son, and a car accident, wherein the car hits the boy and critically injures him. In the emotionally neutral narrative, the car merely hits a curb. Both stories were accompanied by 11 photographs depicting the woman, her son, and the accident (although the 11 photographs were the same across both stories.)

A week later, the tested women were administered a surprise free recall test. The researchers found that women on the pill experienced enhanced memory of the overall events of the story — or what the researchers refer to as the “gist” of the narrative — compared to neutral story conditions. (That is to say the women could accurately recall the main steps in the traumatic event — that the boy had been hit by a runaway car and taken to a nearby hospital, for example.)

On the other hand, naturally cycling women demonstrated what the researchers describe as “enhanced memory of story details” (that there had been a fire hydrant next to the crashed car, or that the hospital had been light brown in color, for example), but not of overall events.

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