Do hormone levels in postmenopausal women affect cognitive function? New research sheds light on the postmenopausal brain.

In a recently published study, researchers found that estrogen levels after menopause may have no impact on cognitive skills, but progesterone levels might. Progesterone had some association with global cognition and verbal memory among newly postmenopausal women.

643 healthy postmenopausal women were part of the study, ranging from 41 to 84 years old. Neuropsychological tests were done to assess cognition and memory, and hormone levels were determined including estradiol, estrone, progesterone, and testosterone. The findings showed no association between estrogen and cognitive skills. However, women with higher levels of progesterone had better outcomes on the verbal memory and global cognition tests, particularly in those who had started menopause less than six years prior. None of the hormones appeared to have any association with depression or mood either.

More research must be done to confirm the new findings regarding progesterone levels. Also, there is no way to directly measure hormone concentrations at the brain level, but this research implies that estrogen therapy may not have a significant effect on cognitive skills. To learn more about when hormone therapy is beneficial , visit Northwestern's menopause website here.

 

Source reference: Henderson VW, et al "Cognition, mood, and physiological concentrations of sex hormones in the early and late menopause" PNAS 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1312353110.

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