Hormones Linked to Improved Thinking

Cognitive ability was improved for older people taking growth hormone releasing hormone

(RxWiki News) Drugs are often used to help memory in people with dementia. New research is looking into ways a hormone may help people with dementia too. A recent study found that taking a hormone, which is a natural part of the body’s function, improved thinking skills for elderly people.

This early research may pave the way to a new treatment. More research is needed to know how helpful it will be.

"Talk to your doctor about ways to keep memory strong."

The study, led by Laura Baker, PhD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, enrolled 137 adults from 55 to 87 years-of-age.

Of the 137 total people, 61 of them had mild cognitive impairment, meaning they had some memory problems but not dementia. The others had no memory problems.

Patients gave themselves a shot of growth-hormone-releasing-hormone (GHRH) or placebo, a shot with no drug, at bedtime for 20 weeks.

GHRH is found naturally in the body. Hormones, like GHRH, testosterone or estrogen, work by moving through the blood to carry messages to other parts of the body.

Cognitive tests were done to look at executive function, verbal memory and visual memory.

Executive functions are thinking skills like problem-solving, planning, and ability to focus. Verbal memory is memory for words. Visual memory is memory for images or pictures.

After five months of the treatment, the patients taking the hormone had better scores on the executive function tests. There was a trend toward better scores in verbal memory for people taking the hormone.

All side effects were that were reported by people in the study were mild.

In an interview on the journal's website, Dr. Baker said, “We are still encouraged that maybe we have identified a strategy of promoting and supporting a natural cascade of events to restore function to that of a younger adult.”

The authors concluded that GHRH shows promise as a treatment for dementia and other cognitive problems.

However, the authors noted that larger and long-term studies are needed.

The hormone was taken by shots in this study. More research is needed to see if people would be willing to use this type of treatment for cognition problems.

It will not be offered as a treatment until these larger, long-term studies are done.

The study was published August 6 in the Archives of Neurology. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

The authors report no competing interests. The hormone for this study was donated by Theratechnologies, Inc. in Canada.


Review Date: 
August 18, 2012