The influence of hormone treatment on brain and cognition in postmenopausal women has been a controversial topic. Contradictory patterns of results have prompted speculation that a critical period, or limited window of opportunity, exists for hormone treatment to protect against neurocognitive. In this cross-sectional study of 102 postmenopausal women, we examined whether hippocampal, amygdala, or caudate nucleus volumes and spatial memory performance were related to the interval between menopause and the initiation of hormone treatment. Consistent with a critical period hypothesis, we found that shorter intervals between menopause and the initiation of hormone treatment were associated with larger hippocampal volumes compared with longer intervals between menopause and treatment initiation. Initiation of hormone treatment at the time of menopause was also associated with larger hippocampal volumes when compared with peers who had never used hormone treatment. Furthermore, these effects were independent from potentially confounding factors such as age, years of education, the duration of hormone treatment, current or past use of hormone therapy, the type of therapy, and age at menopause. Larger hippocampal volumes in women who initiated hormone treatment at the time of menopause failed to translate to improved spatial memory performance. There was no relationship between timing of hormone initiation, spatial memory performance, and amygdala or caudate nucleus volume. Our results provide support for a limited window of opportunity for hormone treatment to influence hippocampal volume, yet the degree to which these effects translate to improved memory performance is uncertain.
- Hormone therapy
- Postmenopausal women
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology