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SfN: Estrogen Mitigates Effect of Stress on Memory
Stress has no effect on working memory in women with high estrogen levels

TUESDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Although stress worsens performance on working memory tasks in postmenopausal women generally, stress does not affect performance in women with high estrogen levels, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held from Nov. 9 to 13 in San Diego.

Alexandra Ycaza, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues examined the effect of stress on working memory based on salivary estradiol and cortisol levels in 42 postmenopausal women who had been randomly assigned to take estrogen or placebo. Each woman completed a working memory task 20 minutes after exposure to either a cold stress or a control stress.

The researchers found that cortisol levels increased during stress sessions and decreased during control sessions. The cortisol increase was significantly greater in women with the lowest estradiol levels compared with women with the highest estradiol levels. Although working memory performance was worse during the stress sessions overall, women with high estradiol levels showed no difference in working memory performance between stress and control sessions.

"This study provides novel evidence for mitigation of the negative effects of stress on cognition with estrogen therapy in postmenopausal women," Ycaza and colleagues conclude.

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