Language lateralization and cognitive control across the menstrual cycle assessed with a dichotic-listening paradigm

Research Area: Research Year: 2012
Type of Publication: Article Keywords: Dichotic listening; Language; Lateralization; Cognitive control; Menstrual cycle; Follicular phase; Estradiol; Gonadal hormones
Authors: Hjelmervik, Helene; Westerhausen, Rene; Osnes, Berge; Endresen, Cecilie Byholt; Hugdahl, Kenneth; Hausmann, Markus; Specht, Karsten
Lateralization has been shown to vary across the menstrual cycle, however, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood, and results are inconsistent. Additionally, it has been suggested that estradiol enhances cognitive control. By modulating attention in a consonant-vowel dichotic listening test, the current study aims to investigate the effects of cycle-related changes on language lateralization (non-forced condition), as well as the effects of estradiol-modulated cognitive control (forced left condition) on the ear advantage. Fifteen women and fifteen men tested three times on the dichotic listening test, women once in menstrual, follicular, and luteal phase (verified by hormone assays). Whereas the results from the non-forced and forced-right condition remained stable, results from the forced left condition changed across the cycle, where women in the follicular phase compared to both menstrual and luteal phases showed a stronger left ear advantage, i.e. better cognitive control performance. The increase in performance from menstrual to follicular phase correlated negatively with increase in estradiol levels, indicating a shift from a stimulus-driven right ear advantage (indicating a left hemispheric asymmetry for language) when estradiol levels were low toward a cognitively controlled left ear advantage when estradiol levels were high. This finding strongly suggests an active role of estradiol on cognitive control. The study further suggests that the degree of cognitive control demands of a given task is important to consider when investigating lateralization across the menstrual cycle.
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