The Menopause Transition – Effects on Memory and Attention
It is not uncommon for women going through menopause to comment that they feel ‘fuzzy’ in the head and whilst they are managing to function normally it may well be below par for them. Whilst estrogen and progesterone are useful for symptomatic relief of hot flashes and mood swings, it is also apparent that they may be helpful in regulating the hormonal fluxes which cause cognitive changes in memory and attention. At the World Menopause Congress in May, Dr Pauline Maki discussed “the menopause transition- effects on memory and attention”. Here is a summary of her discussion:
“Clinical studies demonstrate small but significant changes in memory function and other cognitive abilities as women transition through the menopause. A meta-analysis of cross-sectional studies revealed that postmenopausal women performed significantly worse than pre- and perimenopausal women on delayed verbal memory tasks (but not attention tasks) and significantly worse than perimenopausal women on phonemic verbal memory tasks.
Longitudinal findings from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) and the Penn Ovarian Aging Study also show decreases in verbal memory across the menopausal transition. In the SWAN, memory performance returned to pre-menopausal levels once women reached the postmenopausal stage. Evidence from the Rochester Investigation of Cognition and Menopause (RICAM) indicated that small but significant decreases in not only verbal memory but also attention, working memory and fine motor skills, are evident in the 12 months before the final menstrual period. Generally, these findings indicate that cognitive changes correspond to periods of hormonal flux.
Evidence from studies using ambulatory skin conductance monitors, as measures of physiological hot flashes, show a relationship between increased frequency of vasomotor symptoms and declines in verbal memory.”
Whilst conventional HRT may be of benefit to improve memory and attention, the same can also be said for testosterone. In 2013 Professor Susan Davis conducted a study where 92 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 65 were assigned to receive testosterone (applied to the skin) or placebo for 26 weeks. The women then undertook a test of mental rotational ability and verbal fluency. The women who were receiving testosterone treatment performed better than placebo, and the part of the brain activated by these tasks required less brainpower to do so, meaning the brain is working more efficiently. The results of this study provides the basis for further clinical trials and research. (click here for more information on this trial)
Read more about menopause here.
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