At menopause, many women begin to notice a decline in their attention, organization, and short-term memory. These cognitive symptoms can lead to professional and personal challenges and unwarranted fears of early-onset dementia. A small study by Penn Medicine and Yale researchers, published in the journal Menopause, found that a drug typically given to children and adults with ADHD improved attention and concentration in menopausal women, providing the first potential treatment for menopause-related cognition deficits.
Researchers believe the cognitive issues may be the result of a menopause-related decline in estrogen input to the prefrontal cortex, which interferes with neurotransmission, causing executive function problems.
"Subjective declines in memory, focus and organization are common in mid-life women," said study author C. Neill Epperson, MD, director of the Center for Women's Behavioral Wellness and associate professor in Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "We believe that the results of our small randomized clinical trial provides proof-of-concept that atomoxetine may improve subjective memory, attention and concentration."
Before clinical recommendations can be made, a follow-up clinical trial needs to validate results. A new follow-up study is now underway at the Penn Medicine's Women's Behavioral Wellness program and will test whether an FDA-approved ADD medication amends these cognitive deficits in a larger group of menopausal women.
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