PUBERTAL TIMING AND COGNITIVE ABILITY IN YOUNG ADULTS: TESTING HYPOTHESES ABOUT BRAIN SENSITIVITY TO SEX HORMONES.

Open Access
Author:
Kaplan, Amy Danielle
Area of Honors:
Psychology
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sheri A. Berenbaum, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Pubertal Timing
  • Cognitive Ability
  • Sex Hormones
  • Spatial Ability
  • Verbal Ability
  • Testosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Organizational Effects
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine indirectly the effects of gonadal steroids on the brain during puberty by assessing cognitive ability. Specifically, this study compared two relevant hypotheses regarding pubertal sex steroids and cognition using retrospective pubertal data in college aged participants. Waber hypothesized and found that late maturing individuals performed better and early maturing individuals performed worse at Mental Rotations regardless of sex, indicating only pubertal timing affected cognitive ability. Sisk however found that hamsters that experienced early and on time testosterone surges, mimicking early and on time puberty, showed more male sex-typical behavior, such as mounting behavior. This indicated that behavior may be influenced by pubertal timing and may differ depending on sex. This also indicated that there may be a window of time when the brain is most susceptible to the effects of pubertal hormones. Data was collected from classified as early, on-time, or late pubertal maturation Forty-one participants were classified as either early or late pubertal maturation (early males N=6, late males N=8, early females N=34, late females N=30). Findings replicated previous work on Mental Rotations but not on Verbal Fluency. There was an interaction between cognitive ability and pubertal timing on Verbal Fluency but not Mental Rotations. Results do not provide support for a role of pubertal hormones in organizing the brain to subserve the sex-typed cognitive abilities of spatial ability and verbal fluency but, study limitations – especially limited statistical power for men – make it difficult to conclude that such effects do not exist.