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Perimenopause Temporarily Affects Cognitive Performance

Menopause transition may have greatest effect on processing speed and verbal memory

THURSDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Perimenopause may be associated with some declines in cognitive performance which return to premenopausal levels after menopause, and hormone therapy has differential effects on cognitive performance depending on the time of initiation, according to a study in the May 26 issue of Neurology.

Gail A. Greendale, M.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a four-year study of 2,362 subjects, ages 42 to 52 years, from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation.

The researchers found that processing speed significantly improved over time among premenopausal, early perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women, but not among late perimenopausal women. They also found that verbal memory scores significantly improved over time among premenopausal and postmenopausal women, but not among early perimenopausal or late perimenopausal women. In addition, the authors note, women who began taking hormones before their final menstrual period scored 6 percent higher on initial processing speed scores and 4 to 5 percent higher on episodic memory scores than nonusers. However, women who began taking hormones after their final menstrual period demonstrated poorer cognitive performance over time in both domains compared to their premenopausal performance.

"Whether menopause symptoms (e.g., hot flashes) mediate the cognitive difficulties observed during perimenopause and whether endogenous sex steroids are related to cognition during the menopause transition remain important questions that are beyond the scope of this analysis, but will be the subjects of future work," the authors conclude.

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