In the beginning it was hysteria & # 39 ;. From the medical wizards of ancient Egypt to the bearded philosophers of classical Greece, men have thought about this situation for thousands of years.
The symptoms of this were quite extensive and included anxiety to erotic fantasies. One thing was clear: it only happens to women.
Plato believed that hysteria was caused by the "dueling womb", which was sad when it did not carry a child.
His contemporaries believed that it happened when this organ was imprisoned in different parts of the body, one that faith continued to exist until the 19th century, a time when this condition was famously treated by women to orgasm with a vibrator.
Even now, the idea that a woman's biology can numb her brain is part of popular culture.
When a woman is in a bad mood, she is asked if "she is in her day". If you have a sexual desire, you are told that "you may ovulate".
It appears that this is not unfounded. Some women feel more anxious and irritable during their menstruation, and it is true that we have more sexual motivation when we ovulate. (Although the symptoms can not always be explained that way).
But what not everyone knows is that the menstrual cycle can also influence the brains of a woman in a positive way.
Women are better at certain skills, as spatial awarenessafter your menstruation.
Three weeks earlier they are significantly better communicators and, strangely enough, they are especially good at detecting when someone is scared.
Their brains are also larger during part of their cycle.
What is happening?
The vagabond wombs are not the main source of these changes. These are the ovaries that release estrogen and progesterone in different amounts during the month.
These hormones, which decide when an egg should be released, have profound effects on the brains and behavior of women.
— popular topic —
Scientists have been studying the menstrual cycle since the thirties of the last century.
It is a surprisingly popular research topic. We now know that menstruation has all kinds of effects, from influencing the ability of a woman to quit smoking to the kind of dreams she has every night.
But this mountain of knowledge did not stem from a fascination with female biology. It was derived from the desire to understand the ways in which men and women differ from each other, and why.
An example of this differences are in our brains. The physical differences between the sexes extend to this organ and scientists have suspected for years that it is due to hormones.
One way that women differ from men is that they have superior social skills.
Women have better empathy and a better "theory of mind", the insight that other people have a different perspective than ours.
They also have better communication skills.
"Women speak rather than men, have more verbal fluency than men and are better at spelling than they are," says Pauline Maki, a psychologist at the University of Illinois in Chicago (US).
It is believed that this social benefit has evolved because thousands of years ago eloquent mothers were better able to give essential information to their children, such as not eating poisonous plants.
But are the hormones involved? And if so, to what extent?
— Hormonal balance —
In 2002, Maki and colleagues at the Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore decided to investigate how fluctuating estrogen levels affect women's capacities during each month.
Each participant was evaluated twice: once before their menstruation, when their estrogen and progesterone levels were low, and again a week after they ovulated, when estrogen and progesterone were high.
It was a small study, in which 16 women participated, who were asked to complete a series of mental tests.
The results were remarkable.
During the days that the participants had more female hormones in their system, they were substantial worse in the things in which people are good (as spatial consciousness), and much better in things where women tend to be better (such as the ability to present new words).
When the hormone levels were lower, their spatial capacity was restored.
A capacity that improved when female hormones were higher was "implicit memory", which Maki describes as a sort of unconscious and spontaneous memory.
As a result, Maki believes that these monthly changes were predominantly motivated by estrogen.
Affect Hormones two neighboring areas of the brain.
The first is the hippocampus, which is involved in the storage of memories. There is increasing evidence that the hippocampus is essential for social skills, because remembering your own experiences can help you understand the motivations of others.
This region grows every month as the female hormones circulate.
The second is the amygdala, which helps us to process emotions, especially fear and the decision between fighting or flight.
In this way, the ability of women to recognize anxiety increases to the maximum each month, along with their levels of estrogen.
If this hormone is responsible, it can also explain why women generally have better social skills.
The idea is supported by the fact that women who do not have the ability to produce estrogen are not as good at recognizing fear and have a tendency to have few social skills.
So, the next time someone asks you if you are "hormonal," you can answer yes, and this does not necessarily have to be bad.