Estrogen May Aid Memory in Aging

By Larson, Ruth | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Estrogen May Aid Memory in Aging


Larson, Ruth, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Women who use estrogen replacement therapy may stave off the memory loss that comes with age, and even delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the National Institute on Aging said their study was the first to document the effect of estrogen on visual memory - a woman's ability to remember what she sees - over an extended period of time.

The study, published in the December issue of the journal Neurology, examined 288 post-menopausal women - 116 women using estrogen replacement therapy and 172 who had never used any type of hormone replacement theory.

Researchers found that the 116 women receiving estrogen to counter the effects of menopause made significantly fewer total errors on tests of short-term visual memory. The tests were administered regularly between 1978 and 1994.

Dr. Susan R. Resnick, who headed the research, said in a statement, "Women who were on ERT [estrogen replacement therapy] showed an average difference of about 2 fewer errors than women who were never treated with ERT, which is a significant difference."

The women, all aged 40 or older, were participants in a long-term study on aging at the institute's Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore. The women's visual short-term memory had been tested regularly using the Benton Visual Retention Test.

The test evaluates the ability to recall geometric designs using a series of 10 designs, each shown for 10 seconds. The women were then asked to reproduce the designs from memory. Test scores reflect the accuracy with which they were able to reconstruct the images.

The study also found that test scores for women receiving estrogen remained stable over a six-year follow-up period, while women who had never received hormone treatments showed a significant increase in test errors, typical of normal age-related memory deterioration. …

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