Research confirms role of menopause in memory lapses

New research has confirmed that menopause is linked to memory lapses in women.

However, according to the research by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), US, reproductive stage, not just chronological age, can contribute to changes in memory and brain function.

Studying women aged 45 to 55 - the average age when menopause begins - revealed that a woman’s ability to remember things seemed to drop along with levels of hormones.

The hospital said that studies targeting participants aged 65 and older do not account for cognitive changes that may take place decades earlier in a woman’s life.

Lead author Dr Emily Jacobs, a former member of the Division of Women’s Health and the Department of Psychiatry at BWH, said: “We set out to study cognitive ageing from a women’s health perspective. One of the most profound hormonal changes in a woman’s life is the transition to menopause.

“By shifting our focus to this midlife period, we detected early changes in memory circuitry that are evident decades before the age range traditionally targeted by cognitive neuroscience studies on ageing.”

She went on to add that ageing is not a process “that suddenly begins at 65,” adding that “subtle neural and cognitive changes happen earlier”.

The research team studied 200 men and women, using functional MRI to look at regional and network-level changes in the brain’s memory circuitry. Participants were shown two words on a screen and asked to form a sentence using them, and were later tested on their memory for the words.

They also collected information on the participants’ menopausal status and measured steroid hormone levels, including 17β-estradiol, a sex steroid hormone that declines during menopause.

Overall, the researchers found that when estradiol levels were lower, more pronounced changes in the hippocampus - one of the primary regions of the brain implicated in learning and memory - were seen, and participants with lower levels of the hormone performed poorer on the memory task.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801826697-ADNFCR