Estrogen as a Mediator of the Relationships Between Multitasking, Spatial Orientation & Navigation

Josue vides Ventura, Julien Orellana, Dr. Susan Beers and Dr. Barbara Thayer


Research has shown lower estradiol levels are associated with improved performance on a task of mental rotation (Hampson, Levy-Cooperman, and Korman, 2014), implicating estrogen in visuospatial processing. The current study investigates the potential mediating role of estrogen on relationships among multitasking performance, spatial orientation, and navigation abilities. Twenty-four undergraduate students (mean age = 22.8 years) provided a saliva sample to quantitate estrogen levels and were grouped by menstrual phase based on the self-reported day of the menstrual cycle on the day of testing, where phase 1, menstrual, is from 27 days after the last menstrual period to 9 days after the last period (n=13) ; phase 2, ovulation, is 10 to 15 days after the last menstrual period (n=6); and phase 3, post-ovulation, is from 16 to 26 days after the menstrual period (n=2). Participants completed the Multitasking Assessment Test (MTAT), measuring response times to classify multiple objects into bins as well as the Perspective Taking and Spatial Orientation Task (PTSOT), where participants are presented with an image and they must visualize standing at one object while facing a second object, then mark on a circle the angular distance to a third object based on the image. Participants also completed the Santa Barbara Sense of Direction Scale (SBSOD) scale, in which participants report their navigation strategies. Initial analyses using several one-way ANOVAs showed a marginally significant effect of menstrual cycle phases on MTAT response times [F(2,23)=3.393, p = .051], but no effect of cycle phase on PTSOT scores [F(2,24)=1.477, p > .05]; or SBSOD scores [F(2,24)=.918, p > 05]. Future analyses will investigate the relationship between estrogen levels and task performance.

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