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Neurology. 2003 Sep 23;61(6):801-6.

A population-based longitudinal study of cognitive functioning in the menopausal transition.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA.



No longitudinal studies have tracked cognitive performance through the menopausal transition and thus the impact of the transition on cognition, independent of aging, is not known. The authors hypothesized that a decline in cognitive functioning occurs as women progress through the menopausal transition, independent of age, educational level, family income, ethnicity, and baseline self-perceived health.


The authors began a population-based, longitudinal study in January 1996 with yearly follow-up interviews. This report includes follow-up through November 2001. The authors randomly selected African American and white women from a census of two contiguous Chicago communities. After screening for eligibility (age 42 to 52 years, premenopausal or early perimenopausal, no exogenous hormone use in the past 3 months, and no hysterectomy), 868 agreed to participate. Women who became pregnant, had a hysterectomy, or began using hormones were censored from that time onward. This study reports on 803 women for whom cognitive assessments were available. The authors assessed working memory (Digit Span Backward) and perceptual speed (Symbol Digit Modalities Test).


Contrary to the hypothesis, the authors found small but significant increases over time during the premenopausal and perimenopausal phases. This trend was not accounted for by chronological age, education, family income, ethnicity, or baseline self-perceived health.


Transition through menopause is not accompanied by a decline in working memory and perceptual speed.

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