Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Are we ovary-acting? All visuospatial abilities may not be equally affected throughout the menstrual cycle.

Publication Date



Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Carole Scherling

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Visuospatial skills, intrinsic to everyday functioning, are widely accomplished without conscious attention. Female sex hormones, suggested to affect visuospatial processing, are often over-generalized as affecting the entire domain. The current study systematically investigated visuospatial performance in relation to menstrual cycle, associated with varying hormonal levels. Poorer and slower performance was hypothesized during estrogen high phases. Fifty-four females (birth-control = 15) completed a weekly visuospatial battery (5 weeks), including a corsi block (memory), mental rotation (manipulation), and spatial reasoning (judgement). Participants self-reported cycles, with menstruation providing a benchmark for phase estimations (Menstruation1, Follicular, Luteal1, Luteal2 and Menstruation2). A Wilcoxon sign-rank test revealed decreased accuracy in spatial reasoning for all participants (n= 54) during menstrual phase (5.20; low estrogen) compared to late follicular phase (5.59; high estrogen), Z = -1.761, p = 0.078. A subsample of fifteen participants non-birth control only cohort using an ANOVA with repeated measures revealed latency differences in the corsi block task between menstruation phase (5320.74) and late luteal phase (7029.43), F(5.11) = 4.822, p = 0.007. A Wilcoxon sign-rank test also showed latency differences in the mental rotation task between menstruation phase (6667.96) and late follicular phase (5033.27), Z = -2.556, p = 0.047. Latency differences were also revealed in the spatial reasoning task between the menstruation phase (20956.42) and late luteal phase (27215.34), Z = -2.613, p = 0.009. A subsample of fifteen with a salivary estrogen biomarker using a paired-samples t-test revealed performance differences between highest (920.27) and lowest (1100.59) measures of estradiol in corsi block task, t(14) = -1.643, p = 0.061. Performance differences were also revealed at the highest (4.27) and lowest (4.60) estradiol measures for the mental rotation task, Z = -1.890, p = 0.059. Findings from this study can address the current void in female-centric research, as well as provide further understanding on the potential influence of hormones, and fluctuating levels, on cognitive abilities.

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