Attentional networks during the menstrual cycle

Zahira Z. Cohen*, Neta Gotlieb, Offer Erez, Arnon Wiznitzer, Oded Arbel, Devorah Matas, Lee Koren, Avishai Henik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The menstrual cycle is characterized partially by fluctuations of the ovarian hormones estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4), which are implicated in the regulation of cognition. Research on attention in the different stages of the menstrual cycle is eclectic with discrepancies in attention definitions, and the three attentional networks (alerting, orienting and executive) and their interaction were not explored during the menstrual cycle. In the current study, we used the ANT-I (attentional network test – interactions) to examine naturally cycling women (NC) and women using oral contraceptives (OC). We tested their performance at two time points that fit, in natural cycles, the follicular phase and the luteal phase. We found no differences in performance between the two time points (day 4 / day 18) for the OC group: the response pattern replicated known ANT-I findings. However, the NC group showed differences between the two time points. In the follicular phase, responses replicated known ANT-I results, but in the luteal phase, alertness did not interact with executive and orienting networks, resulting in a larger congruency effect (executive network) when attention was not oriented to the target in alerting and no alerting conditions. Results-driven exploratory regression analysis of E2 and P4 suggested that change in P4 from the follicular phase/day 4 to the luteal phase/day 18 was a mediator for the alerting effect found between groups. In conclusion, the alerting state, found with or without alertness manipulation, suggests that there is a progesterone-mediated activation of the alerting system during the luteal phase.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113817
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - 3 May 2022


FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme295664
European Research Council
Israel Science Foundation1799/12
Seventh Framework Programme


    • ANT
    • Alertness
    • Attention
    • Estrogen
    • Menstrual cycle
    • Progesterone


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