Estrogen Fluctuations Linked to Some Memory Issues & Mental Disorders


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Generalizations are always dangerous to make, but allow me some latitude in making this one: Many women tend to be not only more emotional than men, but they also seem at times to be forgetful or somewhat scattered in their thoughts. Please, know that this is simply a generalization and does not apply to every woman everywhere.

Men tend to just chalk up these quirks as part of being a woman or to the fact that women tend to be more left brain than men. They tend to not only be more emotional but more caring, loving, creative and nurturing than men, while men in general, tend to be more analytical and scientific – right brain centered thinking.

Even women that are more analytical, administrative and scientific in their thinking, tend to have moments when that precise thought process is interrupted or a memory falters for a few fleeting seconds.

A recent study indicates that there is a biological reason for this behavior:

“Fluctuations in estrogen can trigger atypical functioning in a key brain memory circuit in women with a common version of a gene, NIMH scientists have discovered. Brain scans revealed altered circuit activity linked to changes in the sex hormone in women with the gene variant while they performed a working memory task.”

Researchers found that a common gene variant that codes for brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is effected by changing levels of estrogen in the body. BDNF produces a chemical messenger in the brain that plays a vital role in the memory circuits in the brain. This variant of the gene is believed to be found in at least 25% or 1 in every 4 women.

When the levels of estrogen change during the monthly menstrual cycle, it can have a direct impact on the production of the chemical messengers in the brain, thus effecting changes in memory and thought processes as well as mood.

Researchers believe that this finding can lead to ways of dealing with the onset and severity of such things as mood swings, anxiety and even schizophrenia during certain times in a woman’s life. Researchers also believe the findings could also help treat menstrual cycle and reproductive-related mental disorders.

The discovery was made by studying a number of women with and without the gene variant. They were administered different levels of estrogen and their brain functions were then studied to determine any effects. They were asked to perform certain memory tests. It was found that when women with the gene variant were exposed to estrogen, that a section of their brain related to memory showed different activity. Areas that were normally suppressed were activated, showing atypical activity patterns which were found to be associated with memory fluctuations and mood changes.  

Face it men, there is a very good reason why the woman in your life goes through different mood and memory phases. It’s not just because she’s a woman, but may well be due to the fact that she is one of those with the common gene variant that is effected by the different levels of estrogen coursing through her veins on the way to the brain. It truly isn’t her fault, so to speak

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