Menopause transition may cause trouble learning

May 25, 2009

The largest study of its kind to date shows that women may not be able to learn as well shortly before menopause compared to other stages in life. The research is published in the May 26, 2009, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For a four-year period, researchers studied 2,362 women, who were between the ages of 42 and 52 had at least one menstrual period in the three months before the study started.

The women were given three tests: verbal memory, working memory and a test that measured the speed at which they processed information. Scientists tested the women throughout four stages of the menopause transition: premenopausal (no change in menstrual periods), early perimenopausal (menstrual irregularity but no "gaps" of 3 months), late perimenopausal (having no period for three to 11 months) and postmenopausal (no period for 12 months).

The study found that processing speed improved with repeated testing during premenopause, early perimenopause and postmenopause, but that scores during late perimenopause did not show the same degree of improvement. Improvements in processing speed during late perimenopause were only 28 percent as large as improvements observed in premenopause. For verbal , compared to premenopause, improvement was not as strong during early and late perimenopause. Improvements in verbal memory during early perimenopause were 29 percent as large as improvements observed in premenopause. During late perimenopause, verbal memory improvement was seven percent as large as in premenopause. Combined, these findings suggest that during the early and late perimenopause women do not learn as well as they do during other menopause transition stages.

"These perimenopausal test results concur with prior self-reported memory difficulties--60 percent of women state that they have during the menopause transition," said Gail Greendale, MD, with the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The good news is that the effect of perimenopause on learning seems to be temporary. Our study found that the amount of learning improved back to premenopausal levels during the postmenopausal stage."

The study also found that taking estrogen or progesterone hormones before menopause helped verbal memory and processing speed. In contrast, taking these hormones after the final menstrual period had a negative effect: postmenopausal women using hormones showed no improvement in either processing speed scores or verbal memory scores, unlike postmenopausal not taking hormones. "Our results suggest that the 'critical period' for estrogen or progesterone's benefits on the brain may be prior to menopause, but the findings should be interpreted with caution," said Greendale.

Source: American Academy of Neurology (news : web)

Explore further: Long-term effects of battle-related 'blast plus impact' concussive TBI in US military

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New hormone data can predict menopause within a year

Oct 27, 2008

For many women, including the growing number who choose later-in-life pregnancy, predicting their biological clock's relation to the timing of their menopause and infertility is critically important.

Recommended for you

Turning off depression in the brain

7 hours ago

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Rapid whole-brain imaging with single cell resolution

8 hours ago

A major challenge of systems biology is understanding how phenomena at the cellular scale correlate with activity at the organism level. A concerted effort has been made especially in the brain, as scientists are aiming to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Our brains are hardwired for language

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...