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Posted by on May 26, 2009 in estrogen, memory/learning | 3 comments

Study results reported in the May 26 issue of  Neurology suggests that the menopause transition negatively affects women’s ability to learn.

Researchers evaluated 2,362 women between the ages of 42 and 52 for verbal memory, working memory and the speed at which they proceesed information. All study participants were tested through the four stages of the menopause transition:

  1. premenopause (no change in menstrual periods)
  2. early perimenopause (menstrual irregularity, no gaps in period for 3 months)
  3. late perimenopause (having no period for 3 to 11 months)
  4. postmenopause (no period for 12 months)

The results showed improvements in processing speed during pre- and early perimenopause and postmenopause that were 28% larger compared to those in late perimenopause. Improvements in  verbal memory were 29% larger in permenopause than in  early or late perimenopause, and and become 36% larger compared with postmenopause.

The researchers said that it appears that during the late and early menopause, women do not learn as well as they do during other stages. What’s more, these findings support prior self-reports that suggest that as many as 60% of women have memory problems during the menopause transition. (Notably, there have been some studies that suggest that this is a fallacy.) The study authors add that this lapse in learning ability tends to be temporary and returns during the postmenopause stage. They also point to findings that show that taking estrogen or progesterone before menopause may help to improve verbal memory or processing speed but this effect can be reversed if hormones are taken after the final menstrual period.

This is an interesting study and the findings seem to jive with personal experience, especially with regards to what sometimes appears like a diminishing abilty to process information.  It makes me wonder if taking classes as I go through menopause is a good idea or not! And it equally makes me question the endless havoc that hormones appear to take on our bodies and our minds.

What about you? I’d love to hear your experiences and where you are in the transition, that is, if you can remember to comment after reading this (!)


  1. 5-26-2009

    This is really interesting and, of course, makes perfect sense. My friends complain about this all the time. As I get closer, I feel a certain “vagueness” quite frequently, as I let things sink in.

  2. 5-29-2009

    I often find that I can’t remember a noun. For example, I find myself asking my husband to pass me something, say, a glass, and I can’t come up with the word/noun! It goes something like this: “Honey, can you please pass me the … uh, you know, that clear thing … it holds liquids … like water …”
    It’s frustrating sometimes, but mostly I/we just laugh about it! A few years back I saw a female comic do a funny skit on this (she referred to it as “losing nouns”). I thought it was very funny back then, and that was before I could even relate to it. Now I’m often performing my own little comedy skit!
    Cheers, Emily

    • 5-29-2009

      This is a wonderful comment. I would like to think that it’s information overload and not hormones!

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