The researchers also evaluated women in early post menopause, defined as the first year after which a woman experienced her last menstrual period.
The study participants were assessed with a comprehensive battery of tests to evaluate a variety of cognitive skills. These included tests of attention, verbal learning and memory, fine motor skills and dexterity, and "working memory" or the ability to not only take in and store new information, but also manipulate it.
These tests are similar to daily tasks such as staying focused on something for a period of time, learning a new telephone number, and making a mental list of groceries and then recalling specific items as required as one wanders the aisles of a grocery store.
The researchers found that women in the early stage of post menopause performed worse on measures of verbal learning, verbal memory and fine motor skill than women in the late reproductive and late transition stages.
The researchers also found that self-reported symptoms such as sleep difficulties, depression, and anxiety did not predict memory problems. Nor could these problems be associated with specific changes in hormone levels found in the blood.
"These findings suggest that cognitive declines through the transition period are independent processes rather than a consequence of sleep disruption or depression," said Weber. "While absolute hormone levels could not be linked with cognitive function, it is possible that the fluctuations that occur during this time could play a role in the memory problems that many women experience."
The process of learning new information, holding on to it, and employing it are functions associated with regions of the brain known as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. These parts of the
|Contact: Mark Michaud|
University of Rochester Medical Center