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Reconciling subjective memory complaints with objective memory performance in the menopausal transition

Weber, Miriam T. PhD; Mapstone, Mark PhD; Staskiewicz, Jennifer MA; Maki, Pauline M. PhD

Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society: July 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 7 - p 735–741
doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318241fd22
Original Articles

Objective The overall aim of this study was to examine the relationship between subjective memory complaints and objective cognitive performance in perimenopausal women. The specific aims were to determine (1) if subjective complaints of memory problems relate to objective performance on memory tests, (2) if subjective complaints of memory problems relate to other domains of cognitive function, and (3) if subjective memory complaints relate to other noncognitive factors, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep quality.

Methods Seventy-five perimenopausal women completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, which included measures of attention, working memory, verbal memory, verbal fluency, visuospatial skill, and fine motor dexterity; completed self-report inventories of their perceived memory and menopausal symptoms; and provided serum levels of estradiol and follicle-stimulating hormone.

Results Memory complaints were not associated with verbal learning or verbal memory but were associated with working memory and complex attention/vigilance. Memory complaints were also associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, somatic complaints, and sleep disturbance. Regression analyses revealed that memory complaints were best predicted by depressive symptoms, somatic complaints, and working memory performance.

Conclusions Memory complaints in the menopausal transition may reflect true difficulties with attentionally mediated cognitive processes. Memory complaints may also be associated with other menopausal-related symptoms.

Subjective memory complaints are not associated with objective measures of verbal learning and verbal memory but are associated with decreased attention and working memory performance. Subjective memory complaints are also associated with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, somatic complaints, and sleep disturbance.

From the 1Department of Neurology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY; and 2Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Received September 15, 2011; revised and accepted November 14, 2011.

Funding/support: This study was supported in part by the following grants: R03-AG027844-01A2 and T32-NS07338 (to M.W.) and 5 M01 RR-00044 (University of Rochester Medical Center General Clinical Research Center).

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Reprints will not be available.

Address correspondence to: Miriam T. Weber, PhD, Department of Neurology, Box 673, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642. E-mail:

© 2012 by The North American Menopause Society.