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Objective cognitive performance is related to subjective memory complaints in midlife women with moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms

Drogos, Lauren L. MA1; Rubin, Leah H. PhD2; Geller, Stacie E. PhD3; Banuvar, Suzanne MHSA4; Shulman, Lee P. MD5; Maki, Pauline M. PhD1,2

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e318291f5a6
Original Articles

Objective Memory complaints increase as women transition from the premenopausal stage to the postmenopausal stage. We explored the extent to which subjective memory complaints were associated with objective cognitive test performance, affective symptoms, and menopausal symptoms in midlife women with moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms. We predicted that subjective memory complaints would be related to affective symptoms and lower performance on tests of memory and attention.

Methods Sixty-eight midlife women (mean age, 53 y; 54% African American) with at least 35 hot flashes per week completed the Memory Functioning Questionnaire, a battery of objective cognitive tests, a menopausal symptom inventory, and mood questionnaires. Linear regression analyses were conducted to examine predictors (symptoms and objective cognitive scores) of ratings on each of four Memory Functioning Questionnaire subscales and a validated single-item rating of current memory.

Results Negative affect and delayed verbal memory predicted a single-item rating of current memory. Negative affect and poorer scores on tests of attention and working memory predicted Frequency of Forgetting. Lower positive affect, higher vasomotor symptoms, and increased age predicted lower Retrospective Memory Functioning. Increased age predicted Use of Mnemonics.

Conclusions These findings strengthen the growing body of evidence indicating that women with memory complaints during the menopausal transition have an accurate appraisal of their memory function and that their complaints relate to affect and, to a lesser extent, vasomotor symptoms. Given that cognitive performance is within the reference range, these findings suggest that women can detect subtle changes in memory performance during the menopausal transition.

From the Departments of 1Psychology, 2Psychiatry, and 3Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL; and 4Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and 5Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.

Received September 26, 2012; revised and accepted February 13, 2013.

Funding/support: This research was supported by National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine grants K01AT002321-01 and R21AT001868-01 (to P.M.M.) and by grant 5P50AT000155-01 to the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women’s Health, with S.E.G. as the principal investigator of the clinical trial in the center.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: P.M.M. has received consulting fees from Noven Pharmaceuticals. L.P.S. has received speaking fees and honoraria from Noven Pharmaceuticals.

Address correspondence to: Pauline M. Maki, PhD, Neuropsychiatric Institute (MC913), University of Illinois at Chicago, 912 South Wood Street, Chicago, IL 60612. E-mail:

© 2013 by The North American Menopause Society.