Menopause is generally seen by women as a bleak stage of their physical development, with its unpleasant symptoms such as brittle bones, hot flushes, and depression. Scientists however, have been trying to find out the positive side effects of this stage. Lacreuse, et al. (2002) found out, however, that the drop in estrogen level during menopause does increase the spatial memory of women by conducting experiments on rhesus monkeys (Lacreuse, et al. , 2002, p. 120).
The study had huge implications for the formulation of hormone replacement therapies and treatments. Since spatial memory is important in everyday activities such as finding the location of glasses, handbags, and car keys, the study could shape the direction of medical treatments for menopause and its symptoms. What makes Lacreuse’s study different from other animal experiments regarding the effect of estrogen on spatial memory is their use of rhesus monkeys which have very similar menstrual cycles to women.
The investigators evaluated the performance of two groups of rhesus monkeys on tests that measured their decision-making and memory. They removed the ovaries of six female rhesus monkeys and compared their performance with a control group that had their ovaries intact. Results of the experiment indicated that rhesus monkeys whose ovaries were removed fared poorly at object recognition, but they had significantly better spatial memories (Lacreuse, et al. , 2002, p. 120). The animals even performed as well as young rhesus monkeys whose ovaries were intact.
Menopause is usually associated with aging and the decline of physical and mental functions, including memory. Lacreuse’s study indicates that the drop of estrogen levels during menopause may serve to sharpen the spatial memory of women, so they can function normally even in old age. The researchers stated that new estrogen treatments should be able to counter some or all of the effects of the removal of ovaries (Lacreuse, et al. , 2002, p. 123). Another animal study regarding estrogen’s impact on spatial memory was conducted by Harburgera and others (2007).
They tested female mice, observing the effects of estrogen and progesterone on the consolidation of their spatial memory. A water-soluble formula of estradiol was injected into some of the rats to measure their performance on a water maze. Results indicated that estrogen enhances the consolidation of spatial memory in aged female rats, although the effect is lessened by progesterone. Conclusions It is clear from the huge body of research that menopause, associated with low levels of estrogen, does have an effect on the spatial memory of women.
While the results of various studies done on both human and animal subjects contradict on different aspects, the majority of the literature indicates that low levels of estrogen sharpen the spatial memory of women. As we have seen, evolution theory supports the relationship between spatial memory and menopause. Since women in early human history had the task of gathering food, they need a working spatial memory throughout their lifespan to be able to contribute to the group. The human body is known to decline with old age during menopause, so it needs special tools to enhance certain aspects of memory when mental functions start to decline.
Aging women in early human history must have been able to accomplish their roles as food gatherers because their menopausal stage and the concurrent drop in their estrogen levels allowed them to find food sources in various territories. Based on our review, more research needs to be done on actual human subjects rather than animals. Rats and mice are most commonly used, but this presents some challenges as these mammals don’t simulate the menstrual cycle of women. Lacreuse’s experiment on rhesus monkeys is more noteworthy because the animals have similar menstrual cycles to human beings.
Also, while some studies point out that estrogen increases spatial memory, this is limited to animals like rats and with other factors such as the hormone progesterone. The human body and mind have many functions that are still unknown to psychology and other scientific disciplines. The greatest revelation of research into the relationship between menopause and spatial memory is the idea that even in its declining stage, the human body still attempts to correct itself and optimize its performance through various means.
More studies have to be conducted on the roles different hormones play during old age. It seems that humans are equipped with emergency tools to make them function even as some of their physical and mental strength declines. Once it is established that low levels of estrogen does result in sharper spatial memory, medical science can act on this principle to produce drugs and treatments that address the needs of both menopausal and non-menopausal women.
Non-menopausal women who have problems with their spatial memory may opt to enhance it by undergoing estrogen treatment which increases the amount of the hormone in their bodies. Menopausal women can also further sharpen their spatial memory by undergoing the same estrogen treatment. References Becker, J. B. , et al. (2008). Sex differences in the brain: from genes to behavior.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. Encarnacion, D. , et al. (2003). Sex differences and estrogen effects on memory and spatial ability. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from Columbus State University http://72. 14. 235. 132/search? q=cache:Gr8uzL9tFF0J:psysoc. colstate. edu/schmidt/Presentations/Encarnacion2003. ppt+estrogen+%22spatial+memory%22&cd=7&hl=tl&ct=clnk&gl=ph Halpern, D. F. (2000). Sex differences in cognitive abilities.
Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Harburgera, L. L. , Bennetta, J. C. , & Frick, K. M. (2007). Effects of estrogen and progesterone on spatial memory consolidation in aged females. Neurobiology of Aging, 28, 602 610. Healy, S. D. , Braham, S. R. & Braithwaite, V. A. (1999). Spatial working memory in rats: no differences between the sexes.
The Royal Society. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from http://www. pubmedcentral. nih. gov/picrender. fcgi? artid=1690445&blobtype=pdf Lacreuse, A. , Kim, C. B. , Rosene, D. L. , Killiany, R. J. , Moss, M. B. , & Moore, T. L. (2002). Sex, Age, and Training Modulate Spatial Memory in the Rhesus Monkey. Behavioral Neuroscience, 119, 118-126. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from http://209. 85. 175. 132/search? q=cache:6LnBkZgAfv0J:www. apa. org/journals/releases/bne1191118. pdf+menopause+%22spatial+memory%22&cd=4&hl=tl&ct=clnk&gl=ph