BOSTON — After daily treatment with a testosterone spray, postmenopausal women have improved cognitive performance in verbal learning and memory, according to results of a pilot study presented here.

Sonia Louise Davison, MD, PhD, a post-doctoral research fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said lower testosterone levels in women may contribute to the sex-difference in dementia prevalence, but whether testosterone can improve cognitive performance in women is unknown.

“Women have a higher risk for developing dementia compared to men,” Davison said at a press conference. “The results of our study offer a potential therapy, where none currently exists, to slow cognitive decline in women. Testosterone should be further studied in randomized, placebo-controlled trials to determine whether it improves cognitive performance in postmenopausal women.”

Davison and colleagues conducted an open-label, pilot study to explore the effects of testosterone on cognitive performance in a healthy, postmenopausal population. The small study included nine postmenopausal women aged 47 to 60 years who received transdermal testosterone spray for 26 weeks. These women were compared with a control group of 30 women who received no treatment. The researchers measured cognitive function with a battery of computerized tests that were performed pre-treatment and post-treatment.

At week 26, the scores for the International Shopping List task, which measures verbal learning and memory, and scores for the Continuous Paired Associate Learning task, which measures visual learning and memory, were significantly higher among women who received the testosterone treatment. There were also significant improvements in the International Shopping List delayed recall task and the Groton Maze recall task after 26 weeks.

“This is exciting, in that the testosterone-treated women were all healthy with no cognitive impairment, and there was a definite treatment effect of the testosterone spray,” Davison said. “Testosterone may play a protective role against dementia.” – by Emily Shafer