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Study Reveals Early Ovary Removal Reduces Brain’s White Matter Integrity

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Ovary removal before menopause

Women who remove their ovaries before menopause especially before the age of 40, have reduced white matter integrity in multiple brain regions. It affects the connections between neurons. This study was recently published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia. In this study, researchers have found that removing both ovaries before natural menopause can cause abrupt endocrine dysfunction. It increases the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. But few neuroimaging studies have been conducted to better understand the underlying mechanisms.  

In this study, researchers used data from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging to identify women over 50 with available tensor imaging. It is an MRI technique that measures white matter in the brain. Researchers involved 22 women who removed their ovaries by before the age of 40, 43 women aged between the of 40 and 45, 39 women aged between 46 and 49 and 907 women who did not removed their ovaries before the age of 50. Their ovaries were removed by premenopausal bilateral oophorectomy (PBO).  

When researchers observed the collected data, they found that women who removed their ovaries before the age of 40 had reduced white matter integrity in various brain regions. They also found trends in some brain regions in the women between the ages of 40-44 and 45-49. But these results were not statistically significant.  

The study also found that 80% of women who removed their ovaries had a history of estrogen replacement therapy. This made it hard to determine if the use of estrogen replacement therapy after PBO lessened the effects of PBO on white matter integrity. Ovaries release some hormones before and after menopause. Removing ovaries decreases the levels of estrogen and testosterone hormones, that may explain the results.  

Researchers of this study think that there is a need for further research to understand the link between white matter changes and cognitive impairment. They also said that these results are very important for women who are undergoing premenopausal bilateral oophorectomy. But there is a need for a larger and more diverse cohort.  

Reference Link: 

Premenopausal bilateral oophorectomy and brain white matter brain integrity in later-life, Alzheimer’s & Dementia (2024).  

DOI: 10.1002/alz.13852