Reorganization of functional networks in verbal working memory circuitry in early midlife: The impact of sex and menopausal status

TitleReorganization of functional networks in verbal working memory circuitry in early midlife: The impact of sex and menopausal status
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsJacobs EG, Weiss B, Makris N, Whitfield-Gabrieli S, Buka S, Klibanski A, Goldstein JM
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volumedoi:10.1093/cercor/bhw127
Keywordscognitive aging, Estradiol, fMRI, Prefrontal Cortex, sex steroid hormones
Abstract

Converging preclinical and human evidence indicates that the decline in ovarian estradiol production during the menopausal transition may play a mechanistic role in the neuronal changes that occur early in the aging process. Here, we present findings from a population-based fMRI study characterizing regional and network-level differences in working memory (WM) circuitry in midlife men and women (N=142; age range 46-53), as a function of sex and reproductive stage. Reproductive histories and hormonal evaluations were used to determine menopausal status. Participants performed a verbal WM task during fMRI scanning. Results revealed robust differences in task-evoked responses in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and hippocampus as a function of women’s reproductive stage, despite minimal variance in chronological age. Sex differences in regional activity and functional connectivity that were pronounced between men and premenopausal women were diminished for postmenopausal women. Critically, analyzing data without regard to sex or reproductive status obscured group differences in the circuit-level neural strategies associated with successful working-memory performance. These findings underscore the importance of reproductive age and hormonal status, over and above chronological age, for understanding sex differences in the aging of memory circuitry. Further, these findings suggest that early changes in working memory circuitry are evident decades before the age-range typically targeted in cognitive aging studies.

DOI10.1093/cercor/bhw127
Short TitleReproductive aging shapes working memory circuitry