Increased frequency of mind wandering in healthy women using oral contraceptives
Publication date: Available online 8 November 2018
Author(s): Catherine Raymond, Marie-France Marin, Robert-Paul Juster, Sarah Leclaire, Olivier Bourdon, Sophia Cayer-Falardeau, Sonia J. Lupien
Oral contraceptive (OC) is the most common type of contraceptive method used in industrialized countries. A recent epidemiological study showed that OC use was associated with the onset of depression in young women. Mind wandering, a cognitive process associated with spontaneous thoughts unrelated to the task at-hand, has previously been associated with depressive thinking. Consequently, mind wandering might be a precursor for cognitive vulnerability in individuals who are at-risk for mood disorders. The purpose of this study was to examine the frequency and nature of mind wandering in women using OC in comparison to two control groups: naturally cycling women and men. We recruited 71 participants (28 women currently using OC, 14 naturally cycling women in the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle and 29 men) aged between 18 and 35 years, and measured the frequency and nature (guilt/fear oriented and positive) of mind wandering using the short version of the Imaginal Process Inventory. In all analyses, we controlled for depressive symptoms to delineate the unique association between OC use and mind wandering. We also measured estradiol, progesterone and testosterone to confirm expected group differences in sex hormones concentrations. Results show that women using OC presented increased frequency of mind wandering when compared to naturally cycling women and men who did not differ between each other. The three groups did not differ in terms of the nature of mind wandering. These results show that OC use is associated with increased frequency of mind wandering and suggest that the association between OC use and dysphoric mood described in previous studies may be partially explained by the impact of OC use on cognitive processes underlying mind wandering.