London: Ladies, please note -- popping
the pill not only saves you from an unwanted pregnancy but can
also make you brainier, for a study claims that contraceptives
help swell grey matter needed for social skills and memory.
Researchers at Salzburg University in Austria have
found that contraceptive pills increase the size of certain
parts of women`s brains, improving memory and social skills,
and enhancing the mind`s "conversation hub".
The study found that the contraceptive of choice of
3.5 million British women -- a quarter of all 16 to 49-year-
olds -- increases brain size by around 3 per cent, which led
to improvement in brain function, the `Daily Mail` reported.
In fact, for the study, the researchers took high-
resolution images of the brains of women taking the pill and
those not taking it.
The women not on the contraceptive were scanned more
than once to account for the hormonal fluctuations that occur
over the course of a month. Several areas of the brains of the
women taking the pill were larger than the brains of those not
taking the contraceptive, the findings revealed.
No matter which brand or formulation of the drug,
or how long it had been prescribed for, the results were same.
Dr Belinda Pletzer, who led the study, said the sex
hormones in the pill were clearly having a "tremendous effect"
on the female brain.
She added: "Larger volumes of a brain area could lead
to an improvement of the functions this area is responsible
for. Looking at the brain areas involved in our study, which
are larger in pill users compared to naturally cycling women,
this could concern several higher order brain functions,
especially memory and verbal skills.
"The behavioural changes due to contraceptive
use are likely to affect those skills that are already better
developed in women compared to men like, for example, memory."
Just how the pill could have such an effect is not
clear. But one theory is that the oestrogen or progesterone
used to stop eggs from being released also strengthens the
links between nerve cells in the brain.
Although some areas got bigger, the brain did not
increase in overall size, and it is not known whether these
parts shrink back to their original dimensions when a woman
comes off the pill, say the scientists.
The study has been published in the `Brain Research`