Women who use contraceptives like birth control pills experience memory changes, according to new University of California at Irvine research.
''What's most exciting about this study is that it shows the use of hormonal contraception alters memory,'' UCI graduate researcher Shawn Nielsen said. ''There are only a handful of studies examining the cognitive effects of the pill, and more than 100 million women use it worldwide.''
She stressed that the medications did not damage memory. ''It's a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit.''
The change makes sense, said Nielsen, who works with neurobiologist Larry Cahill, because contraceptives suppress sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. Those hormones were previously linked to women's strong ''left brain'' memory by Cahill's research group.
''This new finding may be surprising to some, but it's a natural outgrowth of the research we've been doing on sex differences for 10 years,'' Cahill said.
A neurobiologist not involved in the latest work agreed it was a logical and intriguing next step in the examination of memory differences between the sexes. Like any research, she added, it would be important to validate it further.