A randomized trial of the effect of testosterone and estrogen on verbal fluency, verbal memory, and spatial ability in healthy postmenopausal women

Fertil Steril. 2011 Jan;95(1):152-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.05.062. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


Objective: To test the causal relationship between sex hormones and cognitive skills in postmenopausal women. We hypothesized that testosterone would decrease verbal memory and verbal fluency and increase spatial ability compared with a placebo. For estrogen, we conversely hypothesized that the treatment would increase verbal fluency and verbal memory and decrease spatial ability.

Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial.

Setting: Women's health clinical research unit at a university hospital.

Patient(s): Two-hundred healthy, naturally postmenopausal women aged 50-65 years.

Intervention(s): Randomization to 4 weeks' treatment with testosterone (testosterone undecanoate, 40 mg/day), estrogen (oral E2 2 mg/day) or placebo.

Main outcome measure(s): Comparisons in verbal fluency, verbal memory, and spatial ability between the three treatment groups.

Result(s): We found no significant effects of testosterone or estrogen on verbal fluency, verbal memory, or spatial ability.

Conclusion(s): Our results give no support for short-term testosterone or estrogen treatment having any substantial effect on verbal fluency, verbal memory, or spatial ability in healthy postmenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / administration & dosage
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / drug effects
  • Space Perception / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage*
  • Verbal Behavior / drug effects*
  • Verbal Learning / drug effects*


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Testosterone