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Amazing good news about how menopause changes your brain

[June 16, 2021: Andy Patel]

According to a new study, menopause changes a woman’s brain, but many of the changes are temporary and the brain eventually supplements some of them.

In one of the first studies to look closely at changes in the brains of healthy women before and after menopause, researchers at Weill Cornell and the University of Arizona Menopausal transition It alters brain structure, energy expenditure, and connectivity. The amount of gray matter in the brain, which is made up of nerve cells, is reduced, as is the white matter, which contains the fibers that connect nerve cells. Studies have also found that brain regions associated with memory and perception also showed lower blood sugar levels.

However, the findings contained some good news. Female brain Increased blood flow and the production of a molecule called ATP, the cell’s main source of energy, at least partially compensate for these declines.

“Our study suggests that the brain has the ability to find new normalities after menopause in most women,” said the lead author of the study, associate professor of neurology, and New York. Lisa Mosconi, director of the Women’s Brain Initiative in Weil Cornell Medicine, said York.This study was published in the journal last week Science report.

However, one group of women needed attention. Women in studies with genetic variation associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease accumulated more plaques of a protein called amyloid beta during the perimenopausal period than women and men without the genetic variation. These plaques are associated with the potential for subsequent onset of Alzheimer’s disease.


“For women with a predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease, the female brain tends to begin to accumulate Alzheimer’s disease plaque during the transition to menopause,” says Dr. Mosconi.This discovery Consistent with previous studies She and others went.

Much remains to be learned about how changes during menopause affect post-menopausal health, but the transition has led to more research. During the menopausal and peri-menopausal periods (about 4-10 years before the woman’s final period), estrogen levels fluctuate and eventually decline. Estrogen protects a woman’s brain from aging and stimulates nerve activity. It may also help prevent the accumulation of protein clusters or plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists say that hormonal changes during the transition and the resulting brain changes cause symptoms such as burning, night sweats, brain fog, memory problems, sleep disorders, and even anxiety, depression, and malaise. It is theorized.

In the latest study, researchers performed brain scans of about 160 women aged 40 to 65 years and compared them to 125 men of the same age. Using images such as MRI and PET scans, the researchers studied the female brain, which falls into three categories: Menopausal people; and postmenopausal people.

A two-year follow-up scan after menopause found that changes in the brain were often temporary and that some parts of the brain reversed within a few years.


Scans showed a decrease in the amount of gray matter, but for some women such a decrease recovered after menopause, especially in the precuneus, an area of ​​the brain used for social cognition and memory. .. For other women, the level has leveled off. There was no significant recovery in about 20% of women.

“What was really striking was that the gray matter of the brain was high in premenopausal women, declined during the peri-menopausal period, and then stabilized in many parts of the brain or recovered after menopause,” said Dr. Mosconi. Says. She states that the findings need to be reproduced and not over-interpreted, but overall suggests that the brain is acclimatized.

Jessica Caldwell, director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Exercise Prevention Center at the Cleveland Clinic, said that brain changes that occur during menopause can appear negative, but “this study shows that for most women this is It really shows that there is a time limit. Adjustments have been made and the female brain is actually at some similar level in postmenopausal structure and function as it was before menopause. . ”

According to scientists, the link for Alzheimer’s disease is worth further study. According to a study by Dr. Caldwell, even women at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease show “significant time” memory resilience despite spots in the brain and altered brain structure. Is shown. Dr. Mosconi’s work may help explain the duration of memory resilience, says Caldwell: as amyloid plaques accumulate, the brain adapts as part of the menopausal transition. May be.


“At the same time, this study shows why women at risk [for Alzheimer’s disease] Then, after a certain point in time, it shows a significantly and potentially more rapid decline than men, “says Dr. Caldwell. “The resilience of women at risk is not eternal.”

Kejal Kantarci, a professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic University of Medical Sciences, said it is still unclear whether the neurological changes shown in this study were actually caused by menopause or aging. Stated.

Given the high frequency of Alzheimer’s disease in postmenopausal women, it is important to understand how to distinguish between normal aging and changes that may presage Alzheimer’s disease, says Harvard Medical School of Psychiatry. Professor, Founder and Executive Director Jill M. Goldstein said an overview of the Center for Gender Differences in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Postmenopausal women have a great deal of variability in how they maintain intact memory,” says Dr. Goldstein. “We need to dig deeper into what the mechanisms involved are so that we can enhance them.”


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