Contraceptive Pill Takers Better Recall Plots of Emotional Stories: UCI Memory Research

Having trouble keeping up with the plot of Lifetime weepies?

Just pop a contraceptive pill.

Research out of UC Irvine shows that hormonal contraceptives may inadvertently change brain function, allowing women who take the pill to better recall emotional narratives.

Shawn E. Nielsen of UCI's Cahill Lab ("focusing on neural mechanisms of emotionally influenced memory") headed up the study, and based on the photo at left she could step into the role of a Lifetime femme fatale.

She and her colleagues had 34 women on the pill and 35 who were not watch a slide show of either an emotionally charged story or a similar but less emotional one. The women returned a week later to write down their recollections of the story they had seen.

On average, women from both groups better recalled the more emotional story, but those on the pill best remembered the central plot. Meanwhile, those who did not recall the plot best had better grasps on peripheral details of the story.

"What we found is a change in the type of information remembered, not necessarily a deficit," Nielsen tells New Scientist.

While it's interesting that women on the pill seem to have their investments in emotionally charged films and TV shows pay off better, Nielsen's study may prove more valuable to others doing memory research. They'll now know to factor in whether a test subject is on the pill.

And if that test subject falls hard for the handsome but mysterious memory researcher who may or may not have bumped off his last three wives, you've got the plot for a you-know-what


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