Wednesday Bubble: The incredible shrinking brain

Posted by on Jan 14, 2009 in HRT | 2 comments


New research from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study hormone trials demonstrates that HRT may shrink women’s brains. No wonder I can’t forget where I placed those files..

The data, which are reported in the January 13 edition of Neurology, show that women who took hormone replacement comprising estrogen with or without the addition of progesterone had an increased risk for dementia and overall decline of cognitive function.

Researchers measured brain volume and size of microscopic brain lesions in 1,403 women who took estrogen therapy for 18 months or combined estrogen/progesterone for three years or a placebo. The women who participated in the study were on average, about 77 years old.

The findings showed that women who took HRT had brains that were several centimeters smaller than women who took placebo.

The areas of the brain that were most affected by therapy? The hippocampus, which is involved in memory formation, and the frontal lobe which is involved in memory recall. However, no differences were seen in the sizes of brain lesions, which negates the possibility that HRT is leading to tiny strokes that cut off the brain’s blood supply and affecting memory.

When I looked into other reports of this study, I found quotes from the researchers that suggest that the greatest risk may be in women who already have memory problems. More importantly, the findings imply that the risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy may greatly outweigh the benefits.

These data do potentially provide some explanation as to why many women going through menopause experience increased forgetfulness. However, it is clear that the story is not yet complete, as many of us not taking hormones still seem to go through weekly, if not daily memory lapses.

Now…where did I put that….


  1. 1-14-2009

    i found this post to be…

    wait, what was i going to say?

  2. 1-15-2009

    It is just amazing how wrong we were in advising long-term HRT. Just goes to show, sometimes what seems like good logic is poor medicine.



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