Scientists have known for years that both the male and female brains have estrogen receptors that have wide-ranging effects on our physical, emotional and cognitive health.
Estrogen influences language skills, mood, attention, and a number of other functions, in addition to memory. Estrogen receptors are present in several regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, that when activated by estrogen, initiate processes that are involved in memory and other cognitive functions. In addition, estrogen may raise the levels of certain neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine (implicated in memory), serotonin (implicated in the mood), noradrenaline (implicated in mood and other autonomic functions), and dopamine (implicated in motor coordination).
A number of epidemiological studies have indicated that estrogen therapy may reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease in healthy women in whom the disease has not been previously diagnosed. What these studies show is that this therapy should be initiated at the onset of menopause. Women who start taking estrogen after the age of 65 years appear to be at greater risk of dementia, including Alzheimer disease.