A new study in the Journal of Women’s Health suggests that use of hormonal contraception (better known as The Pill) can increase intelligence in women, especially in terms of visuo-spatial ability, speed, and flexibility, “even years after use is discontinued.” The Pill also helps to prevent (or at least postpone) the natural decrease in intelligence that comes with old age. And the longer a woman takes the pill, the greater the cognitive benefits.
The realization that hormonal therapy increases IQ in women has been known for at least half a century; a seminal study (PDF) from 1952 showed that in 30 patients with a mean age of 75,
“after 12 months of treatment, verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) scores on the Wechsler Bellevue Intelligence Scale and scores on the Wechsler Memory Scale had increased significantly from pretreatment baseline in the estrogen-treated women, whereas verbal IQ scores decreased significantly in those given placebo during the same time span.”
But this new study is the first to show that these cognitive benefits also apply to pre-menopausal women, suggesting that it might be possible to increase intelligence in younger women with little more than a pill.
So what does this mean? Might the increased use of hormonal contraceptives over the past few decades have contributed to the alleged decrease in the male-female IQ gap that was recently reported by Duke’s Jonathan Wai, and so giddily covered in the mainstream press?