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Current Advances in Affective Neuroscience

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Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.01041

Oral contraceptives impair complex emotion recognition in healthy women

  • 1University of Rostock, Germany
  • 2Universitätsmedizin Greifswald, Germany
  • 3University of Greifswald, Germany
  • 4Universität Potsdam, Germany

Despite the widespread use of oral contraceptives (OCs), remarkably little is known about the effects of OCs on emotion, cognition and behavior. However, coincidental findings suggest that OCs may impair the ability to recognize the mental and emotional states of others, which may have serious consequences in interpersonal contexts. To further investigate the effects of OCs on emotion recognition, we tested whether women who were using OCs (n = 42) would be less accurate in the recognition of complex emotional states than women who were not using OCs (n = 53). In addition, we explored whether these differences in emotion recognition would depend on women’s menstrual cycle phase. We found that women with OC use were indeed less accurate in emotion recognition than women without OC use, irrespective of women’s menstrual cycle phase. Our findings indicate that OCs may, indeed, impair emotion recognition in women, which should be taken into account when informing women about the side-effects of OC use.

Keywords: oral contraceptives, Menstrual Cycle, estrogen, Progesterone, emotion recognition, social cognition

Received: 03 Sep 2018; Accepted: 21 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

Benjamin Becker, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, China

Reviewed by:

Birgit Derntl, University of Tübingen, Germany
Dirk Scheele, Universität Bonn, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Pahnke, Mau-Moeller, Junge, Wendt, Weymar, Hamm and Lischke. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Alexander Lischke, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, 17489, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany,