Hormonal contraceptives and the brain: A systematic review on 60 years of neuroimaging, EEG, and biochemical studies in humans and animals

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2023 Jan:68:101051. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2022.101051. Epub 2022 Dec 25.


Hormonal contraception has been widely prescribed for decades. Although safety and efficacy are well-established, much uncertainty remains regarding brain effects of hormonal contraception. We systematically review human and animal studies on the brain effects of hormonal contraception which employed neuroimaging techniques such as MRI, PET and EEG, as well as animal studies which reported on neurotransmitter and other brain biochemical effects. We screened 1001 articles and ultimately extracted data from 70, comprising 51 human and 19 animal studies. Of note, there were no animal studies which employed structural or functional MRI, MRS or PET. In summary, our review shows hormonal contraceptive associations with changes in the brain have been documented. Many questions remain and more studies are needed to describe the effects of hormonal contraception on the brain.

Keywords: Birth control; Brain; Brain function; Brain structure; Contraceptive; EEG; Hormonal birth control; Imaging; MRI; Neuroimaging; Neurotransmitter assay; OCP; Oral contraceptive; Oral contraceptive pill; PET.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Contraceptive Agents*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging*


  • Contraceptive Agents