How Oral Contraceptives Impact Social-Emotional Behavior and Brain Function

Estrella R. Montoya*, Peter A. Bos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Millions of women worldwide use oral contraceptives (‘the pill’ OCs), often starting at a pubertal age when their brains are in a crucial developmental stage. Research into the social-emotional effects of OCs is of utmost importance. In this review, we provide an overview of studies that have emerged over the past decade investigating how OCs, and their main ingredients estradiol (E) and progesterone (P), influence social-emotional behaviors and underlying brain functions. Based on this overview, we present a heuristic model that postulates that OCs modulate core social-emotional behaviors and brain systems. Research domains and challenges for the future, as well as implications, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-136
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • emotion
  • estradiol
  • fMRI
  • progesterone
  • reward
  • social behavior


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