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Working memory is a central construct in cognitive neuroscience that is responsible for the orchestration of daily activities. Serum concentrations of some reproductive hormones are known to vary in the pregnant and non-pregnant state. There are conflicting reports about the effect of pregnancy on working memory. It is yet to be ascertained whether the change in the concentration of some reproductive hormones during pregnancy affects working memory. The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between working memory and some reproductive hormones(estrogen, progesterone and prolactin) in pregnant and non-pregnant women.A total of 67 participants, comprising 29 non-pregnant and 38 pregnant women were involved in the study.The N-back task was used to assess Working Memory while the Mini-Mental State Examination was used to assess global cognitive functions. Blood samples were collected and assayed for hormonal concentrations of estrogen, progesterone and prolactin. Data obtained were expressed as mean ± SEM. Students t-test was used to analyse the significance of difference between serum levels of Estrogen, Progesterone, Prolactin, MMSE and N-back task between pregnant and non-pregnant women. Pearson‟s correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between the serum hormonal concentration (Estrogen, Progesterone and Prolactin) and global cognition(MMSE) and also between the serum hormonal concentration (Estrogen, Progesterone and Prolactin) and WM(N-back task).In the MMSE, the pregnant group had a mean of 27.45 ± 0.57 while the non-pregnant group had 29.55 ± 0.13. In the N-back task, the mean values for the pregnant group was 70.32 ± 0.73, while that of the non-pregnant group was 74.41 ± 0.45. The pregnant group significantly outperformed the non-pregnant group in both the MMSE and the N-back task. Concentrations of estrogen, progesterone and prolactin were 1125 ± 75 pg/ml, 67.70 ± 7.9 ng/ml, 134.3 ± 12.04 ng/ml respectively for pregnant women and 20.90 ± 1.9 pg/ml, 3.0 ± 0.6 ng/ml and 11.6 ± 1.8 ng/ml for non-pregnant women. The pregnant women had significantly higher concentrations of all these hormones compared to the non-pregnant women. The correlation of the N-back task with estrogen, progesterone and prolactin was -0.0232, 0.0902 and -0.029 respectively in pregnant women and -0.2536, 0.03494 and -0.0864 respectively in non-pregnant women.The correlation of the MMSE with estrogen, progesterone and prolactin was -0.171, 0.0998 and 0.717 respectively in pregnant women and 0.1756, 0.251 and-0.0277 respectively in non-pregnant women. There was no significant statistical relationship between either of the neuropsychological tests and any of the reproductive hormones. The study certified that there was poorer global cognition and working memory in pregnancy. However, the study alsoshowed that the hormonal concentrations did not account for the poorer global cognition and working memory observed during pregnancy.
Working memory (WM) is a multi-component system that is responsible for
temporary concomitant storage and manipulation of information in the face of
ongoing processing and/or distraction. WM serves as a mental workspace that is used
in many important daily activities like learning, remembering short driving
instructions, mental rearrangement of furniture to create space and calculating the
right tip. These activities involve multiple steps with intermediate task results that
need to be kept in mind temporarily to successfully accomplish the task at hand
(Shelton et al., 2007, Harden, 2011, Baddeley, 2012).
Research is highlighting the importance of WM in academic, professional and social
settings. WM has been implicated in ability to do arithmetic, learn languages and is a
better test of intelligence than the regular intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. WM is
compromised in Alzheimer‟s disease, Parkinsonism and Schizophrenia. WM is a
viable tool for investigating and understanding other research areas like
psychiatry.learning and language. (Perry et al., 2001; Huntley et
The prefrontal cortex is one of the parts of the brain that are responsible for working
memory functions. It has been observed that the prefrontal cortex is larger in women
and contains more estrogen receptors than other cortical areas(Kane and Engle, 2002).
1.1 STATEMENT OF STUDY PROBLEM
Hormones can alter cognitive functions. Estrogen, progesterone and prolactin have
been implicated in cognition. Working Memory is a central construct in cognitive
neuroscience.Some studies indicate a relationship between exogenous estrogen and
working memory. (Maki et al., 2002; Shelton et al., 2007). No study is known to
analyze the relationship between working memory, serum estrogen, progesterone and
prolactin levels of pregnant and non-pregnant women in Zaria.
Estrogen is a hormone that mediates several feminizing features in women. The serum
Estrogen, Progesterone and Prolactin levels vary with reproductive phases. However,
estrogen has also been implicated in cognitive functions. It has been established that
the prefrontal cortex, which is a key area of the brain in working memory is larger in
females and has relatively higher estrogen receptor levels compared to other parts of
the brain. Hormones can alter cognitive functions. Working Memory is a central
construct in cognitive neuroscience (Maki et al., 2002; Shelton et al., 2007). Some
studies indicate a relationship between exogenous estrogen and working memory.
Given the pivotal dais that Working Memory occupies in cognition, it has become
rather imperative to investigate the relationship between working memory and
endogenous serum Estrogen, Progesterone and Prolactin levels of pregnant and non-
pregnant women in Zaria.
1.3 AIM AND OBJECTIVES
This study is aimed at evaluating the
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