MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, Ph.D.
Leonard Davis School of Gerontology
Department of Psychology
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Ca 90089
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Previous research has shown that estradiol treatment after menopause can reduce the stress response when exposed to a stressor, including the cortisol response to stress. Other work has shown that stress can impair certain types of memory. We wanted to test whether post-menopause estradiol treatment would not only attenuate the cortisol response to stress, but if it could also reduce the negative effects of stress on memory. In particular, we tested the effects on a type of memory called working memory. Working memory allows us to maintain and update information we need to readily access in short-term memory. For example, imagine you stop at the grocery store after work and only have a mental list of the items you need to make dinner. Working memory is the memory type engaged in helping you maintain and update your mental list of items as you grab items off the shelves and check them off your list.
We recruited women through the Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol, a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Women who participated in our study had received nearly 5 years of either estradiol or placebo.
We found that women receiving estradiol showed significantly smaller cortisol responses to stress and less of an effect of stress on working memory than women that had been receiving placebo.