Women are often concerned when they experience increasing difficulty concentrating, poor short-term memory, and fuzzy-thinking during middle age. However, difficulty concentrating and these other symptoms typically don't point to serious problems like dementia or Alzheimer's, but instead are indicative of low estrogen levels.
Medical researchers have long known that estrogen plays an important role in cognitive functioning, but the exact nature of that role has remained unclear.
However, recent research published in the Journal of American Medicine sheds some light on estrogen's affects on neural activity and a person's power to concentrate. A team of investigators from the Yale University School of Medicine tested this link by testing 46 menopausal women ranging in age from 33 to 61. Three weeks prior to the investigation, the subjects were started on either a placebo or estrogen treatment. The doctors then recorded brain activity as the women endeavored to memorize and remember nonsense words or foreign letters.
When the brain activity patterns of the two groups were examined, researchers concluded that the women who were given estrogen had more rapid neural responses than women in the placebo group. These findings suggest that estrogen aids older women's brains to maintain the same kind of accelerated neural activity of younger people. However, although estrogen stimulated neural activity, when administered to postmenopausal women it did not actually augment their memory.
Women experiencing serious memory problems after menopause thus will probably not benefit from any type of estrogen therapy, but issues like difficulty concentrating, on the other hand, most likely will improve with increased levels of estrogen.