Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between perimenopausal memory complaints and performance on objective neuropsychological tests. A secondary aim was to determine if putative deficits are related to other relevant factors, such as hormone levels, mood state, or sleep quality.
Methods: Twenty-four perimenopausal women were enrolled. Participants completed questionnaires assessing mood, anxiety, menopausal symptoms, health, and subjective memory function. They also underwent comprehensive cognitive testing, which included measures of attention, working memory, verbal memory, verbal fluency, visuospatial skill, and fine motor dexterity. We obtained serum estradiol and follicle-stimulating hormone levels on the day of testing.
Results: We found no association between memory complaints and performance on tests of retentive memory. However, memory complaints were associated with poorer memory encoding and increased depressive symptoms. Regression analyses revealed that memory complaints were best predicted by depressive symptoms, whereas encoding performance was predicted by depressive symptoms and estrogen level. Women with significant memory complaints performed worse on tests of encoding, after controlling for depression and sleep disturbance.
Conclusions: These results suggest a complex relationship between mood, memory, and hormones that may underlie perimenopausal memory complaints. Furthermore, they suggest that some women may be particularly vulnerable to the subjective experience of memory problems and relative decreases in attentionally mediated cognitive function.