Correlation between menstrual cycle and cognitive performance in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes).
Sana Inoue, Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Extensive research on human subjects has tried to investigate whether there is a correlation between cognitive performance and the menstrual cycle. Less is known about the relationship between the menstrual cycle and task performance in other cognitive animals. We test whether the secretion of a sex hormone [luteinizing hormone(LH)] influences the performance of cognitive tasks by a female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) who is part of a long-term cognition research program. We focus on two cognitive tasks: an “easy task,” which consists of simple numerical ordering, and a “difficult task,” which combines numerical ordering with memorizing the numerals' spatial location. Data on the performance of these cognitive tasks, urine samples, and sexual swelling over six menstrual cycles showed that the chimpanzee's performance accuracy decreased and that the intertrial interval was longer during the LH-surge of the menstrual cycle, but only for the performance of the difficult task. These performance attributes seem to reflect a decrease in attention or motivation during ovulation. In summary, the cognitive performance of a chimpanzee was disturbed by hormonal changes despite her long-term experience in the tasks.