Investigators at the University of Rochester were recently able to explain the memory problems that many women going through menopause have been reporting for decades. The team was able to determine that this “brain fog” indeed stems from a variety of changes affecting the brain.
Menopause is a very difficult time in a woman's life, when her hormone balance is thrown into disarray, and a host of symptoms, including depression, hot flashes, migraines, back pain, decreased skin elasticity and so on.
For a long time, doctors have been receiving reports from menopausal women that a host of mental symptoms is associated with this phenomenon as well. However, until now, a clear understanding of what exactly happens has been lacking.
Experts at the UR Medical Center and the University of Illinois in Chicago decided to conduct the new investigation in order to determine precisely what's happening when women's ovaries cease their primary reproductive functions.
“The most important thing to realize is that there really are some cognitive changes that occur during this phase in a woman’s life,” URMC neuropsychologist Miriam Weber, PhD, explains.
“If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal,” the expert adds.
It's interesting to note here that only a small number of studies have ever been conducted on the way menopause affects a woman's brain functions and capabilities in the long-run. The influence that this phenomenon has on memory and cognition is largely unknown, PsychCentral reports.
For the new study, experts asked 75 women, ages 40 to 60, to complete a series of cognitive tests, which the team developed specifically to assess the participants' ability to learn and memorize new data. The questionnaires were also meant to gage attention spans.
“Science is finally catching up to the reality that women don’t suddenly go from their reproductive prime to becoming infertile. There is this whole transition period that lasts years. It’s more complicated than people have realized,” Weber argues.
Details of the new study were published in the latest issue of Menopause, a journal edited by the North American Menopause Society.