Menopause ‘brain fog’ a product of poor sleep and depression?

May, 2012

A smallish study of women approaching and in menopause found that some experienced poorer working memory and attention, and these were more likely to have poorer sleep, depression, and anxiety.

A study involving 75 perimenopausal women aged 40 to 60 has found that those with memory complaints tended to show impairments in working memory and attention. Complaints were not, however, associated with verbal learning or memory.

Complaints were also associated with depression, anxiety, somatic complaints, and sleep disturbance. But they weren’t linked to hormone levels (although estrogen is an important hormone for learning and memory).

What this suggests to me is that a primary cause of these cognitive impairments may be poor sleep, and anxiety/depression. A few years ago, I reported on a study that found that, although women’s reports of how many hot flashes they had didn’t correlate with memory impairment, an objective measure of the number of flashes they experienced during sleep did. Sleep, as I know from personal experience, is of sufficient importance that my rule-of-thumb is: don’t bother looking for any other causes of attention and memory deficits until you have sorted out your sleep!

Having said that, depressive symptoms showed greater relationship to memory complaints than sleep disturbance.

It’s no big surprise to hear that it is working memory in particular that is affected, because what many women at this time of life complain of is ‘brain fog’ — the feeling that your brain is full of cotton-wool. This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn new information, or remember old information. But it does mean that these tasks will be impeded to the extent that you need to hold on to too many bits of information. So mental arithmetic might be more difficult, or understanding complex sentences, or coping with unexpected disruptions to your routine, or concentrating on a task for a long time.

These sorts of problems are typical of those produced by on-going sleep deprivation, stress, and depression.

One caveat to the findings is that the study participants tended to be of above-average intelligence and education. This would protect them to a certain extent from cognitive decline — those with less cognitive reserve might display wider impairment. Other studies have found verbal memory, and processing speed, impaired during menopause.

Note, too, that a long-running, large population study has found no evidence for a decline in working memory, or processing speed, in women as they pass through perimenopause and menopause.

Reference: 

Related News

A mouse study has found that introduction of oral bacteria into the bloodstream increased risk factors for atherosclerotic heart disease, including cholesterol and inflammation, suggesting that the same bacteria that cause gum disease also promotes heart disease.

The issue of the effect of menopause on women’s cognition, and whether hormone therapy helps older women fight cognitive decline and dementia, has been a murky one. Increasing evidence suggests that the timing and type of therapy is critical.

A new study adds more support to the idea that the increasing difficulty in learning new information and skills that most of us experience as we age is not down to any difficulty in acquiring new information, but rests on the interference from all the old information.

Being a woman of a certain age, I generally take notice of research into the effects of menopause on cognition.

Problems with myelin — demyelination (seen most dramatically in MS, but also in other forms of neurodegeneration, including normal aging an

Cancer survivors who underwent chemotherapy often suffer long-term cognitive problems. Until now, most research has been occupied with establishing that this is in fact the case, and studies investigating how to help have been rare.

I’ve reported before on the growing evidence that metabolic syndrome in middle and old age is linked to greater risk of cognitive impairment in old age and faster decline.

I have reported previously on research suggesting that rapamycin, a bacterial product first isolated from soil on Easter Island and used to help transplant patients prevent organ rejection, might improve learning and memory.

Genetic analysis of 9,232 older adults (average age 67; range 56-84) has implicated four genes in how fast your

A study involving 130 HIV-positive people has found that memory impairment was associated with a significantly larger waistline.

Pages

Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health newsSubscribe to Latest news