The putative association between hormones and cognitive performance is controversial. While there is evidence that estradiol plays a neuroprotective role, hormone treatment has not been shown to improve cognitive performance. Current research is flawed by the evaluation of combined hormonal effects throughout the menstrual cycle or in the menopausal transition. The stimulation phase of a fertility treatment offers a unique model to study the effect of estradiol on cognitive function. This quasi-experimental observational study is based on data from 44 women receiving IVF in Zurich, Switzerland. We assessed visuospatial working memory, attention, cognitive bias, and hormone levels at the beginning and at the end of the stimulation phase of ovarian superstimulation as part of a fertility treatment. In addition to inter-individual differences, we examined intra-individual change over time (within-subject effects). The substantial increases in estradiol levels resulting from fertility treatment did not relate to any considerable change in cognitive functioning. As the tests applied represent a broad variety of cognitive functions on different levels of complexity and with various brain regions involved, we can conclude that estradiol does not show a significant short-term effect on cognitive function.
About The Expert
Michael P Hengartner