Research into oral contraceptives on cognition and affect is scarce and often ignores the different generations of the pill. Androgenic and antiandrogenic progestins, which vary over the generations of oral contraceptives, may produce masculinizing and feminizing effects on the brain, respectively. Masculinizing effects are associated with better spatial ability, which suggests that androgenicity plays a role in spatial performance. Clinical and animal studies have also demonstrated an effect of oral contraceptives on anxiety which may be dependent on the generation of pill used. In the current study, adolescent female Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with either an androgenic oral contraceptive, an antiandrogenic oral contraceptive, or a vehicle containing no drug. All female rodents treated with oral contraceptives performed significantly better in tests of the Morris Water Maze and Elevated Plus Maze. No significant differences were found between the two oral contraceptive pill groups in performance on either task. Results may have been impacted by the effects of estrogen, which has demonstrated pro-spatial ability and anxiolytic effects. Future studies should examine progestins in isolation to eliminate estrogen as a potential confound. The current study’s findings imply that oral contraceptives can alter cognition and affect, which should be relayed to individuals who use these medications.


Stavnezer, Amy Jo




Social and Behavioral Sciences


Sex Differences, Oral Contraceptives, Spatial Learning, Anxiety

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis


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