A study found that the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause the brain to pick one memory system or strategy over the other rather than affecting memory in general. The study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology was led by researchers from the Concordia University in Canada.

“Women have sometimes reported to doctors that their memory works differently depending on which phase of the menstrual cycle they are in—even during and following pregnancy, or following menopause. This has led scientists to wonder whether estrogen and progesterone could affect memory and problem solving,” co-author of the study, Wayne Brake, said in a statement Wednesday.

The researchers analyzed 45 women who had regular menstrual cycles. The women first completed a questionnaire on their “hormonal profile,” which gathered details on their menstrual cycles, past pregnancies, their use of contraceptives or synthetic hormones and general habits.

Researchers then administered a verbal memory task that required participants to remember a list of words and a virtual memory task like solving a maze in a video game. They found that women who were ovulating were better at the verbal memory task and those who were in their pre-menstrual phase were better at the virtual memory task.

This led the researchers to believe that women use different strategies to solve problems depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle.

“We and others have previously shown that the levels of estrogen and progesterone in rodents influence different brain regions, affecting various memory systems involved in task-solving,” Brake said.

“For example, when estrogen levels are high, female rats will use one type of memory system or strategy versus another to solve a maze. This is the first study to show that this is also true for women, who solve tasks in different ways based on their hormones,” he added.