Relationship between variations in estradiol and progesterone levels across the menstrual cycle and human performance

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 May;155(2):198-203. doi: 10.1007/s002130100700.


Rationale: Studies about whether or not the cognitive performance of women is influenced by changes in levels of sex steroid hormones across the menstrual cycle have produced ambiguous results.

Objectives: This study tested whether flight simulator performance differs significantly between the menstrual and the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.

Methods: In a within-subjects design, 24 female pilots were tested twice during their menstrual cycle: once during the menstrual and once during the luteal phase. On both test days they performed a 75-min simulator flight in a Frasca 141, a popular pilot training device.

Results: Despite highly significant differences in estradiol (E2) as well as progesterone (P) levels on the 2 test days, and despite excluding subjects with anovulatory cycles from the analyses, there were no significant differences in overall flight performance between the menstrual and luteal phases. We found no significant correlations between E2 or P levels and flight performance.

Conclusions: We found no evidence that the tested menstrual cycle phases and their associated E2 and P levels significantly influence flight simulator performance. We consider these negative findings based on 24 subjects meaningful because previous studies on the influence of menstrual cycle on cognitive performance have not involved complex "real world" tasks such as piloting an aircraft and they obtained inconsistent results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacokinetics
  • Estradiol / metabolism*
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luteal Phase / metabolism
  • Luteal Phase / physiology
  • Menstrual Cycle / metabolism*
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Progesterone / metabolism*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol