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The question of whether estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is beneficial to cognitive functioning in postmenopausal women has become controversial in the past several years. Early studies suggested that ERT improved cognitive functioning and decreased the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but recent studies have failed to find any benefit. However, studies have varied in terms of the age of participants, the estrogen preparation used, whether progesterone is administered concurrently, and the study design. The present study used a randomized, placebo-controlled design and a transdermal estrogen preparation composed of 17-beta estradiol. A neuropsychological battery was administered at baseline and after completion of the 10-week trial, and test scores were grouped into four composite scores using psychometric techniques. Baseline to follow-up change was analyzed using multiple regression techniques. Results indicate that while little overall beneficial effect of estrogen was found, years since menopause was significantly related to change in executive functioning in the estrogen but not the placebo group, such that more recently postmenopausal women demonstrated greater positive change than older women. Body mass index, a gross estimate of circulating estrogen, was significantly positively related to change in attentional and psychomotor processes regardless of treatment group, and to a weaker extent, verbal memory, but only in the estrogen-treated group. These results suggest that reproductive events and levels of endogenous estrogen are related to the clinical response to ERT, but larger studies with longer follow-up periods are needed to determine the strength of these effects.
View details for Web of Science ID 000225229200006
View details for PubMedID 15511602