Why Men Should Stop Making Period Jokes (Answer May Surprise You)

(Editorial Note)

—Seriously, period jokes may be funny. Ok, they are. But, let’s be real here. If we, men, once a month lost ourselves and had our brains taken over by something we couldn’t control…well, we’d be pretty damn angry. Maybe, as science learns more about how menstruation DOES affect the brain-thus affecting behavior, we can find a bit more compassion for women. As a guy, I hate it when I can’t control my thoughts or emotions. I fight it. Imagine not being able to turn it off- imagine Mother Nature just kicking our asses once a month for a week. Or maybe the silver lining is that we should all just date postmenopausal women? This research is real and very recent (October 2023) Maybe it’s time we cut them some slack for a week. Unfair, I know! But imagine what she is going through!

Full Research here- https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.10.09.561616v1


Unlocking the Brain’s Response to Menstruation: Insights from Cutting-Edge Neuroscience Research

The Groundbreaking Research: A New Perspective

In this pioneering study, Rizor, Babenko, and their team took a remarkable approach. They tracked a group of 30 menstruating women through their menstrual cycles, closely documenting the structural alterations occurring in the brain as hormonal profiles experienced fluctuation. The results, though awaiting peer review, can be found on the preprint server bioRxiv, and they unveil structural changes in the brain that extend beyond the regions typically associated with the menstrual cycle.

An Unprecedented Revelation

These findings are nothing short of groundbreaking. They represent the first comprehensive report of simultaneous brain-wide changes in human white matter microstructure and cortical thickness coinciding with menstrual cycle-driven hormone rhythms. Notably, these changes are not confined to traditionally known receptor-dense regions within the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal-axis (HPG-axis).

Unraveling the Brain-Hormone Interaction

The brain’s response to hormonal shifts is a topic that has long fascinated scientists. While previous research has concentrated on how hormones influence cognitive tasks, this study shifts the focus to the actual structures of the brain. It highlights the powerful effects of cyclic fluctuations in HPG-axis hormones on the central nervous system. Yet, remarkably little is known about how these fluctuations alter the structural components of the human brain.

Understanding the Microstructural Changes

The research delves into the microstructure of white matter, the intricate network of neuronal fibers responsible for transmitting information between different regions of gray matter. Hormonal shifts, including those experienced during puberty, oral contraception use, gender-affirming hormone therapy, and post-menopausal estrogen therapy, have been found to induce changes in white matter microstructure.

The Study’s Methodology and Findings

To address the gaps in our understanding, the research team performed MRI scans during three key menstrual phases: menses, ovulation, and mid-luteal. Simultaneously, they measured hormone levels in the participants. The results demonstrated that as hormonal levels fluctuated, both gray and white matter volumes experienced changes, along with variations in the volume of cerebrospinal fluid.

Revealing the Brain’s Adaptability

A fascinating discovery from the study occurred just before ovulation when 17β-estradiol and luteinizing hormone levels surged. The participants’ brains exhibited white matter changes that suggest faster information transfer. Follicle-stimulating hormone, which rises before ovulation to stimulate ovary follicles, was associated with thicker gray matter, while progesterone, which increases after ovulation, was linked to increased tissue and decreased cerebrospinal fluid volume.

Future Implications and Unanswered Questions

While the direct implications for an individual’s brain functioning are still unknown, this research lays the foundation for future investigations. It holds promise for understanding the underlying causes of severe mental health problems related to menstruation. Although the study does not yet report functional consequences, it hints at potential links between structural brain changes and alterations in behavior and cognition during hormone transition periods.

Exploring the Path Forward

As we navigate the intricate relationship between the menstrual cycle and the brain, this research opens the door to understanding the human nervous system’s daily functioning. It highlights the importance of investigating brain-hormone relationships across neural networks, offering insights that extend across the human lifespan.

For a more in-depth look at this pioneering research, you can access the team’s paper on bioRxiv, shedding light on the intricate brain-wide changes during menstruation.



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