October 5, 2016

Menopause isn’t always accompanied by physical symptoms. In fact, for many women, the side effects of this hormonal change aren’t quite as tangible as hot flashes and stiff joints. A decline in mental faculties such as reasoning and perception can often occur. However, a study from the Oregon National Primate Research Center suggests that hormone therapy may mitigate such cognitive changes.

For the nonhuman primates treated with estradiol implants, both spatial working memory and visuospatial attention improved throughout the course of the one-year testing period compared to those receiving a placebo. While post-menopausal hormone therapy has been a frequent topic of debate, the research supported the hypothesis that estradiol treatment is a sustainable solution for managing symptoms.

“There have been several previous studies published on the effect of hormone therapy on cognition in the nonhuman primate, with equivocal results,” said lead author Dr. Steven G. Kohama, a neuroscientist at the Oregon NPRC. “However, in comparison to these earlier reports, our study was much longer, and it suggests a sustained benefit from early intervention after menopause with hormone treatment.”

As the pro-hormone therapy argument grows stronger, the list of research questions grows longer. Researchers are already considering whether treatment earlier in menopause slows cognitive decline more than therapy introduced later.

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