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Post-Menopausal Hormones Mitigates Effects of Stress on Cortisol and Working Memory
  Previous research has shown that estradiol treatment after menopause can reduce the stress response when exposed to a stressor, including the cortisol response to stress. Other work has shown that stress can impair certain types of memory. We wanted to test whether post-menopause estradiol treatment would not only attenuate the cortisol response to stress, but if it could also reduce the negative effects of stress on memory. In particular, we tested the effects on a type of memory called working memory. Working memory allows us to maintain and update information we need to readily access in short-term memory. For example, imagine you stop at the grocery store after work and only have a mental list of the items you need to make dinner. Working memory is the memory type engaged in helping you maintain and update your mental list of items as you grab items off the shelves and check them off your list. We recruited women through the Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol, a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Women who participated in our study had received nearly 5 years of either estradiol or placebo. We found that women receiving estradiol showed significantly smaller cortisol responses to stress and less of an effect of stress on working memory than women that had been receiving placebo. MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Response: Women experience a host of changes during and after the menopause transition. One such change may be the way in which they physiologically respond to stress and how stress affects memory. Estradiol treatment may help mitigate these changes, however, more research needs to be conducted to determine the extent and limits of such effects. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study? Response: Our study, while exciting, was run with a small number of women. These findings need to be replicated in a similar, but larger, population. It will also be imporant to begin investigating the mechanism by which estradiol is able to limit the effects of stress on working memory. MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Response: While estradiol treatment after menopause is not right for every woman, it is important that women have the most complete information on the possible risks and benefits so that they can make the most informed decisions with their physicians.


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