Why cognitive decline can appear during menopause


  • Mitochondria, which provide 90% of the energy needed by our body for its functioning, are also involved in the cognitive decline observed in some postmenopausal women.

Forget where they put their glasses, to buy milk or bread or to go to a professional appointment. From their 40-45 years, when the premenopause occurs, many women are prone to slight memory loss.

This cognitive decline, observed during the transition between premenopause, perimenopause and postmenopause, appears to be independent of chronological age. In a new study presented at the 2020 Virtual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), researchers show that mitochondrial function may be a determinant of cognition during early postmenopause.

Inefficient energy production involved

Mitochondria are intracellular organelles whose main function is to provide cells with the energy they need to survive and the functions they are supposed to perform. They are the ones that provide 90% of the energy required by the human body to maintain life and support the functioning of organs.

Previous studies had already hypothesized that mitochondria play a role in the cognitive decline observed during menopause. This work, which was based on the examination of singular mitochondrial biomarkers, estimated that a drop in estrogen impairs the efficiency of energy production during the menopausal transition, and that inefficient energy production may be linked. to a decline in cognition.

In this new work, the researchers examined the association between a broader set of mitochondrial biomarkers and cognitive test performance in a larger sample of postmenopausal women.

110 women were recruited to assess the relationship between functional mitochondrial markers and cognition. The results showed that in postmenopausal women, markers of mitochondrial function were associated with better cognitive performance, especially on verbal learning, verbal memory, verbal fluency and spatial ability.

“Through this research, we confirmed that women with more efficient energy production had better cognitive performance on a range of cognitive cues, including verbal learning.”says Rachel Schroeder of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the study. According to her, these compensatory bioenergetic changes could lead to less efficient energy production but maintain cognition in women as they age.

“This study provides valuable insight into a possible role of changes in mitochondrial function in reducing cognitive performance during the menopause transition, concludes Dr Stéphanie Faubion, medical director of NAMS. Further studies are needed to determine whether these midlife changes predict future cognitive decline and whether steps can be taken to prevent them. “


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