The team from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the issue is not really impaired memory. Instead, the team found a link between complaints of forgetfulness and the way middle-aged, stressed women learn or "encode" new information.
"This is not what most people think of traditionally when they think of memory loss," said co-author Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., assistant professor of Neurology. "It feels like a memory problem, but the cause is different. It feels like you can't remember, but that's because you never really learned the information in the first place."
The findings come from Mapstone and Miriam Weber, Ph.D., memory experts at the University's Memory Disorders Clinic who are seeing more and more middle-aged women who say they are having problems with forgetfulness.
"We see a lot of women who are afraid they are losing their minds," said Weber, a senior instructor of Neurology, who presented the results. "A lot of women complain that their thinking or their memory isn't what it used to be. Their big fear is that it's early Alzheimer's disease."
The team found nothing to support the idea that such women are on their way to developing Alzheimer's disease, and they didn't find any problem with what most people consider "memory." But they did make a finding that helps explain why women in their 40s and 50s frequently say they're having memory problems: It's possible that their changing moods and hectic lives make it harder to keep track of everything.
The work is the latest salvo in a years-long back and forth about memory, menopause, and
Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester Medical Center