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Polycystic ovary syndrome linked to cognitive issues in women: Study


Bharti Jayshankar

February 3, 2024: In a recent study published in the journal Neurology, researchers have uncovered a potential association between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and cognitive issues in women. The study, conducted over 30 years and involving 907 women, sheds light on the impact of this hormonal condition on memory, attention, and verbal abilities.

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects 8-15% of women of childbearing age. Up to 70% of affected women remain undiagnosed worldwide.

The issue causes hormonal imbalances that lead to irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, and excess male sex hormone production. The study, conducted by researchers from California, Michigan, Tennessee, and Maryland, aimed to explore the long-term effects of PCOS on cognitive health.

Cognitive tests

Dr. Heather Huddleston, the study’s lead author from the University of California, San Francisco, emphasized that while PCOS has been linked to metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes, its impact on brain health is less understood. The study revealed lower memory and thinking skills in women with PCOS, suggesting potential implications for various aspects of their lives.

The researchers conducted a battery of tests, including the Stroop test for attention, the digit symbol substitution test for processing speed, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment for cognitive decline, the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test for verbal memory, and verbal fluency tests. Women with PCOS scored lower on tests measuring memory, attention, and verbal abilities.

Brain scans of a smaller group of 300 women, conducted at 25 and 30 years, showed that white matter in the brains of those with PCOS was not as healthy as in those without the condition. White matter is crucial for processing information and connecting different brain regions.

Further investigation?

Dr. Huddleston emphasized the need for additional research to confirm these findings and determine the mechanisms behind the observed changes. She suggested that lifestyle changes, such as incorporating more cardiovascular exercise and improving mental health, might help mitigate the risk memory problems for women with PCOS.

The authors stressed that the findings do not prove causation, urging further investigation into the relationship between PCOS and brain health.

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