Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The cultural impact of the Pill - neuroendocrinology

Modern imaging methods show hormonal contraceptive use changes brain structures.

That's interesting. It means it's now probably safe to mention one of the most interesting papers I ever wrote. For obvious reasons it was quickly buried.

I was an itinerant Watson Fellow in early 1982, staying with a very generous USAID worker and his wife in Dakka, Bangladesh. I was basically a parasite, but somehow I got it into my head to write a paper on the sociocultural implications of widespread OCP use in Thailand.

The premise of my paper was simple. Different OCPs, and progesterone implants, where known to have different effects on mood. Testosterone biased OCPs had one set of effects, estrogen biased another set, progesterone yet another. It seemed obvious that if you gave these medicines to millions of women the sum of the individual mood changes might have social implications.

If you wanted to change a society in a certain direction, you might favor one OCP over another. I was keen on social engineering in those days. That was before I was drummed out of the Trilateral Commission [1], and before a subsequent social engineering paper almost ended my first year of medical school.

Needless to say, I never got any comments about my pill paper. I was remarkably obtuse at that age, but even I had a sense this was not a wise topic choice. If anyone read my paper, they would have torched it immediately.

I suspect, however, that I was right.

[1] Joke. Sort of.

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