And oh what a fascinating journey it has become. I knew already that both the brain and ovaries produce estrogen, but have learned that the amazing temporary organ, the placenta, also produces estrogen as part of its function. Additionally, some types of estrogen in minute quantities are also produced in the liver, the adrenal glands, the breasts, and fat cells! Not only does estrogen, as well as testosterone, effect our sexual cycles and natures, along with androgens, but they do many other 'jobs' as well. Its effects spam mood, serotonin, breast cancer, promoting wound healing, and so on. But I digress... But, what of MY mind?
In the 1970's, Martin Kelly produced conclusions that estrogen has the power to effect the firing rate of hypothalamic neurons within a mere few minutes, years later studies and results have concluded that estrogen receptors exist in the hippocampus, that receptors can exist inside actual synapses (thus effecting memory and predisposed behavior), as well as has a significant effect on memory.
Oh boy, I don't think chamomile tea is going to be strong enough to prepare me for this one...
So yay, good news first, estrogens have been numerously associated to a better ability at memory retention, though these effects are short lived as with most things also counter studies exist, not to mention quite a bit of controversy over hormone replacement therapy for cognitive degenerate diseases. Interestingly, there has also been studies to show that estradiol synthesis might happen post synapses formation, and potentially effect neuronal networks surrounding it. Thus, with influxes, not only is new memory formation potentially modified (or different than sans estrogens influx) but also that other memory can be effected as well. From 'Estogens and memory in physiological and neuropathological conditions':
"Ovarian hormones can influence brain regions crucial to higher cognitive functions, such as learning and memory, acting at structural, cellular and functional levels, and modulating neurotransmitter systems. Among the main effects of estrogens, the protective role that they may play against the deterioration of cognitive functions occuring with normal aging is of essential importance. In fact, during the last century, there has been a 30 years increase in female life expectancy ... Therefor, women are now spending a greater fraction of their lives in a hypoestrogenic state. Although many cognitive functions seem to be unaffected by normal aging, age-related impairments are particularly evident in tasks involving working memory (WM), whose deficits are a recognized feature of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Many studies conducted over the past two decades showed that the female gonadal hormone estradiol can influence performance of learning and memory tasks, both in animal and humans. There is a great deal of evidence, mostly from animal models, that estrogens can facilitate or enhance performance on WM tasks; therefore, it is very important to clarify their role on this type of memory."
Overall, my general understanding of these studies perused, articles absorbed, and research of the predominant publications, is that estrogens have a significant effect on the minds formation of information, ongoingly is able to continue modifying, they have the ability to far more quickly form synapsis, and as expected, play both a role in our perception as well as emotion. What is not entirely clear scientifically, is that during cycles of estrus, is whether the perception is temporarily modified, or if we are literally reprogramming things that already exist due to the modification of current perception. The increased speed of neuronal firing creating and forming information both more quickly as well as more solid and permanent, makes me believe that perhaps it is somewhat of an adjusting process.
Perhaps women are not 'crazy' at times of the month, but rather, temporarily brilliant ;)