Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Mental performance during perimenopause

In Brief

Mental performance during perimenopause

About 60% of women report having problems with memory or learning during perimenopause, the long transition leading up to complete cessation of menstruation. Now one of the first longitudinal studies to track the progression of cognitive problems during perimenopause confirms that women, on average, experience a temporary and relatively minor decline in mental performance.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed data collected from 2,362 participants in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, who took three short cognitive tests repeatedly at four time periods: before the menopausal transition started, during early perimenopause and late perimenopause, and after menopause. The tests assessed information-processing speed, verbal memory, and working memory.

The researchers expected scores to rise with each successive exam, as the women became familiar with the tests. While scores for processing speed and verbal memory increased in early perimenopause, they leveled out, or even declined, during late perimenopause.

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