The goal of this study is to examine whether the administration of estrogen to
post-menopausal women and women with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease will enhance their
memory and their capacity for learning.
Estrogen (EST) may have significant benefits in preserving cognitive functioning in normal
aging after menopause and in decreasing the incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD). On a
molecular level, EST has effects on a variety of cholinergic neuronal and receptor-mediated
mechanisms that may be responsible for these beneficial effects. These neurons have
critical relevance for the development of age-related cognitive changes and dementing
disorders. However, little is known about the clinical relevance of EST-cholinergic
interactions, either in normal aging or in AD.
The primary goal of this study is to test the hypothesis that three months of administration
of EST to 1) normal post-menopausal women, and 2) female patients with mild-moderate AD who
are concurrently treated with anticholinesterase therapy (donepezil), will positively change
or blunt the negative and behavioral effects of drugs that block central cholinergic
receptors (both muscarinic and nicotinic). Participants will be blindly placed on EST or
placebo for three months each. After each three month period, they will be cognitively
assessed after receiving single doses of the cholinergic antagonists scopolamine and
mecamylamine. These results will have direct implications for the use of EST in
post-menopausal women as well as interactive treatment with cholinergic drugs for AD.
Researchers plan to recruit a total of 45 women (30 healthy, and 15 patients with AD).
NOTE: This study is only recruiting participants with Alzheimer's Disease at this time.
- Normal volunteers and women with mild Alzheimer's disease:
- No use of Hormone Replacement Therapy for at least one year
- No menses for at least one year
- Normal mammogram within the last year
- minimum age is 45 for patients with Alzheimer's disease; 50 for normal volunteers
- Maximum age is 85 for patients with Alzheimer's disease; there is no maximum age for
- Women who are currently taking estrogen therapy.
- Women who are smokers.
- Women who have had breast cancer.
Paul A. Newhouse, M.D.
Memory Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont College of Medicine