PhD funded studentship:  “Improvements in cognition of women in (peri)menopause through regular engagement in physical activity.”

Project Code: CiPE-39624067

Project Description:

It is well-established that impaired cognitive function is a common occurrence reported by women experiencing (peri)menopause, with typical symptoms including forgetfulness; ‘brain-fog’; and difficulties with concentration/focus etc. Emerging evidence suggests that regular participation in physical activity and/or exercise can help to alleviate some of these symptoms. However, most of this existing research has focussed on the assessment of the general self-reported cognitive function, rather than specific functions (e.g. attention; cognitive flexibility). Understanding better the brain changes that take place through menopause and how the affected cognitive functions can be improved is a move forward to improving the quality of life of women in menopause. An important element for understanding the cognitive functions will be brought in by the computational work that will help translate the findings by simulating the proposed changes.

The proposed research program is focusing on understanding the brain changes in menopause and the effect of exercise to improving these functions. We are planning to do this using qualitative and quantitatively methodologies as well as a computational model that simulates changes in attentional functions developed in our lab. The first component of the project will involve co-production, whereby a qualitative approach (i.e., focus groups) will be used to gather insights on how best we can create an intervention that the target population will benefit from and be interested in. The outcome of the co-production will mould the proposed 12-week exercise intervention, where, as above, cognitive function will be assess pre- and post-intervention. The computational model will be used to simulate the changes in the brain function before and after the intervention.

Anticipated Findings:

Through co-production involving focus groups, the study aims to uncover the barriers and enablers related to exercise participation in perimenopausal women. Key findings may include preferences for exercise activities, optimal intensity, frequency, and duration, contributing to the design of a more effective and sustainable intervention. This would be valuable not only for the immediate project, but for future work that is considering designing interventions with the same target population. 

Insights from the intervention data would provide an understanding of which cognitive changes during perimenopause, specifically focusing on attention and flexibility, can be ameliorated with exercise. In addition to the above, the inclusion of computational modelling will create the basis to develop precision medicine approaches for women in menopause, as it could be used in the future as a tool for developing personalised treatment approaches.

Overall, the key findings are expected to contribute to the scientific knowledge of cognitive changes during (peri)menopause, the impact of exercise on cognitive function, and the practical strategies that enhance exercise participation and cognitive well-being in this population. The insights gained could inform future interventions and improve the overall quality of life for women in the perimenopausal and menopausal stages.

Contact (and Director of Studies for this project): Dr Foyzul Rahman,

More information for the scheme and application info can be found in the links below