ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (5): 466-480.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.00466

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

An effect of menstrual cycle phase on episodic memory

LI Jianhua1,3, XIE Jiajia2,3, ZHUANG Jin-Ying3()   

  1. 1Department of Psychology; Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, University of Macau, Macau 999078, China
    2Department of Marxism, Qingdao University of Science & Technology, Qingdao 266061, China
    3Shanghai Key Laboratory of Mental Health and Psychological Crisis Intervention, School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2021-03-14 Published:2022-05-25 Online:2022-03-23
  • Contact: ZHUANG Jin-Ying
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(71971084)


Evolutionary psychology research suggests that sex hormones may influence episodic memory, though the specific mechanisms of such an influence are not clear. In this study, we compared episodic memory performance in a What-Where-When (WWW) test (dependent variables) between the late follicular phase (late-FP) and mid-luteal phase (mid-LP) of the menstrual cycle (independent variable) in Experiment 1. We combined the WWW task with event-related potential (ERP) analysis in Experiment 2 to explore neurological mechanisms of menstrual cycle effects on episodic memory. In Experiment 1, 33 women with a stable menstrual cycle completed the WWW test in the late-FP and mid-LP (balanced order). The test included the O task (memorizing objects), P task (memorizing positions), OO task (memorizing objects and their presentation order), OP task (memorizing objects and their presentation position), and PO task (memorizing presentation order and position). PO task accuracy was significantly better in the mid-LP than in late-FP. In Experiment 2 (total N = 28, 16 with ERP data), frontal-lobe P300 and LPC amplitudes were found to be significantly larger during the mid-LP than in the late-FP. Sensitivity correlated directly with P300 amplitudes in right frontal electrodes. The ERP data suggested that good PO task performance in the mid-LP may benefit from enhanced cognitive control. In conclusion, the present study supports the possibility that the menstrual cycle may influence integration of spatial position and temporal sequence of objects in episodic memory, with memory performance being better during the mid-LP than during the late-FP. This effect on episodic memory may be due to enhanced cognitive control.

Key words: episodic memory, menstrual cycle, cognitive control, P300, LPC, event-related potential