People usually associate “memory” with implicit memory, which refers to past experiences and routines. For example, recalling song lyrics or a toast at your wedding would be drawing on your implicit memory. However, memory also refers to working memory, which is the ability to process new information and manipulate it in your head. While women experiencing menopause likely won’t experience changes in implicit memory, they might face some hurdles with their working memory.
Brain fog is more common than you might think. However, since people often blame their memory troubles on aging, conversations which address these troubles are often on the back burner. We understand that being open about memory fog is not so easy, but acknowledging its causes will help you, your friends, and your family comprehend and digest the changes in your cognitive functioning.
Women often attribute the trouble they have remembering things with sleep and mood changes caused by menopause. While these common symptoms of menopause do indeed affect our ability to remember things, memory fog due to menopause is independent of these changes. In other words, menopause directly affects memory. During menopause, estrogen levels decline gradually, and sometimes even rapidly. This decline in estrogen results in a decline of serotonin. Serotonin is known for affecting mood, but studies reveal that serotonin also affects cognition.
Further research suggests that estrogen might help neurotransmitter systems send signals to areas of the brain which involve memory and information processing. Additionally, estrogen has been known to promote growth and survival or neurons which allow their brain to properly function. The bottom line: a lack of serotonin supply impacts behavioral and neural responses, which in turn impairs working memory. Evidently, estrogen plays an instrumental role in our brains – so it’s no wonder we experience cognitive changes throughout menopause.
Make no mistake, memory fog is frustrating! Our kids complain that we ask the same questions over and over again, and we struggle to find the words on the tips of our tongues. But it’s not all bad news. Now you know that it’s not you, it’s menopause. And while there’s no stopping your body’s natural processes, taking care of yourself through quality rest, food, and activity is the first step to conserving your cognition.
by Brooke Kenerson