Can tamoxifen boost cognition in older women?

A small study shows that the drug tamoxifen may have long-term benefits for the brain function of post-menopausal women. (Credit: Wendy Copley/Flickr)

Tamoxifen—commonly known as a medicine used to treat and prevent breast cancer—improves cognition in post-menopausal women, a small study shows.

New research published in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, examined how tamoxifen affected cognitive performance in 21 healthy older women.


After three months of tamoxifen or placebo treatment, investigators used anti-cholinergic drugs to induce cognitive dysfunction and then administered a panel of cognitive tests.

In previous work, the team had demonstrated that estrogen reduces the cognitive dysfunction caused by anti-cholinergic drugs.

Now they show that tamoxifen also reduces impairment from cholinergic blockade on tasks of verbal episodic memory and spatial navigation. Effects on attentional and psychomotor tasks were more variable.

The study provides evidence that tamoxifen acts as an estrogen-like agonist to enhance cognition mediated by cholinergic neuronal signaling.

It further validates the team’s previous findings and suggests that selective estrogen receptor modulators (like tamoxifen) may have long-term benefits on brain function.

The National Institutes of Health supported the research.

Source: Vanderbilt University