Hot flashes impair memory performance

Almost had it - now it's gone

If you’re having difficulty identifying the right word to express yourself clearly or remembering a story correctly, you may blame menopause.

A new study by The North American Menopause Society suggests that physiologic hot flashes are associated with decreased verbal memory.

In this new study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to reveal exactly how the brain was behaving during a hot flash.

An apple a day might help keep bothersome menopause symptoms away

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It revealed that the areas of the brain which control storing and retrieval of memories, are affected during physiologic hot flashes.

“This goes some way to explaining the frustrations of menopausal women.” says Walker-Wilson, lead researcher as MindfullyTrim, who was not involved in the study. “There is the sense of being physically out of control, because of the hot flashes. And the even greater worry of being mentally out of control, caused by not being able to remember things.”

Matt Walker-Wilson, lead researcher at MindfullyTrim


Photos: Gone scrabble tiles Photo by Jess Bailey from

Stress makes it difficult for us to plan because it impairs our memory

We use our memory to look back at our past.

But we also use our memories of what has happened in the past, to plan our futures.

When we are stressed, we cannot retrieve memories as quickly or as accurately. And that impairs our ability to plan for the future.

Stressing out about a problem can make finding a solution even harder.

Stressing out over a problem can make finding a solution even harder.

Researchers Stanford University conducted experiments where they monitored participants’ behavior and brain activity — via fMRI — as they navigated through virtual towns. After participants became very familiar with the winding routes in a dozen virtual towns, they were dropped onto one of the memorized paths and told to find their way to a particular point.

Some of the participants were told they would receive a mild electric shock at random. These participants – who were worried about a random electric shock – performed less well that the others who were not threatened with electric shocks.

Middle age stress is greater now than in the 1990’s

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Participants who didn’t have to worry about being randomly shocked tended to find shortcuts based on memories acquired from prior journeys. Whereas the stressed participants tended to fall back on the meandering, habitual routes.

It’s possible that people who are suffering with financial stress, fail to make effective plans to help deal with financial problem. And that may make their financial situation even worse.


Photos: Red pencil stress words by Pedro Figueras | Man and laptop by Oladimeji Ajegbile