The impact of progesterone on memory consolidation of threatening images in women.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Nov; 37(11):1896-900.P
Recent findings suggest that consolidation of emotional memories is influenced by menstrual phase in women. In contrast to other phases, in the mid-luteal phase when progesterone levels are elevated, cortisol levels are increased and correlated with emotional memory. This study examined the impact of progesterone on cortisol and memory consolidation of threatening stimuli under stressful conditions. Thirty women were recruited for the high progesterone group (in the mid-luteal phase) and 26 for the low progesterone group (in non-luteal phases of the menstrual cycle). Women were shown a series of 20 neutral or threatening images followed immediately by either a stressor (cold pressor task) or control condition. Participants returned two days later for a surprise free recall test of the images and salivary cortisol responses were monitored. High progesterone levels were associated with higher baseline and stress-evoked cortisol levels, and enhanced memory of negative images when stress was received. A positive correlation was found between stress-induced cortisol levels and memory recall of threatening images. These findings suggest that progesterone mediates cortisol responses to stress and subsequently predicts memory recall for emotionally arousing stimuli.