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Monticello Media is a new Charlottesville-based company formed solely to purchase and operate six radio stations in Charlottesville as of October 2007. We do not have radio stations in any other markets. Our only focus and interest is serving Charlottesville area listeners and businesses. As a privately-held company, we don't have to weigh the whims of Wall Street against the needs of the constituents we serve.

Monticello Media's station mix is based on custom research conducted in the Charlottesville market. Our stations are designed to satisfy the interest and desires of our community and to allow area businesses to reach the most desirable consumers.

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At forty you can't read the numbers in the telephone book. At fifty you can't remember them. What's going on?

An even more insidious thief is being quietly noted both by pure-science researchers and by doctors who increasingly hear complaints like those of the very smart best-selling author in Colorado whom I happened to phone one day. "How are you?" I asked.

"I'm thinking slower—are you? I have tremendous trouble concentrating. I start to write and just wander. Am I getting stupid?"

All writers have days like this. But this woman, just past fifty, was usually so witty about life's pitfalls. "What I feel is panic," she said. "I tape every interview now, because I know I won't remember. And I'm so intent on remembering I become extremely irritable. Because if somebody interrupts me while I'm trying to remember, then I'm frightened of losing it."

She wasn't kidding. "You feel less competitive, slow off the mark," she went on. "I think the bottom line is," she said glumly, "I'm just plain dimmer."

Wait a minute, hadn't she been all smiles after having had a hysterectomy three years earlier? "Oh, sure, I was just so glad to be finished with cysts and fibroids, and I was mad at all these doctors." The surgeon told her they had saved one ovary, which should produce enough estrogen; she wouldn't need to take hormones. That was three years before.

"You might be suffering from estrogen deprivation," I said.

"You mean, I'm not stupid, I just need hormones?"

I told her story to Barbara Sherwin, the McGill professor. After the age of forty-eight, she said, that remaining ovary would be quickly withering away. Moreover, manipulation during surgery to remove the uterus often compromises the blood supply to the ovaries. Professor Sherwin said she would be shocked if the writer's estrogen level wasn't in the postmenopausal range. And the impact on mental acuity can be quite noticeable.

"Something has happened to my memory," the working women who walk into McGill University Menopause Clinic will often report. They misplace things. It's harder to remember a new phone number, though they always remember the old ones. "People start getting methodical. They don't just put their glasses down on the kitchen counter; they put them down in a specific spot," notes Professor Sherwin. Though this temporary strain on short-term memory is quantifiable, the women are not seriously impaired in their daily functioning.

The few studies that show estrogen loss has a deleterious effect on mental functioning have been done on surgically menopausal women, where the hormonal drop is sudden and acute. For naturally menopausal women, the effect may be a little fuzzy thinking in the early years of Change of Life. "When I was in my early fifties, it was impossible for me to look up in an index and hold three different page numbers in my head," chuckles Canadian newsletter editor O'Leary Cobb. "I'm fifty-seven now, and it's all come back again. Most of us do recover."

Estrogen does help increase the blood flow to the brain. Some women say their memory becomes more acute than ever after they start taking estrogen. The absence of estrogen has a powerful effect on synapses at certain sites in the brain, confirms Dr. Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist at Rockefeller University. He has observed brain chemistry changes in rats during the equivalent of menopause (after their ovaries were removed). "The number of synaptic connections actually decreases. If you administer estrogens, these synaptic connections are remade within a few days." During the female rat's four-day estrous cycle, which mimics the menstrual cycle, these synapses come and go. As for human females, it has been demonstrated that estrogens do have an effect on mental functioning—not on IQ but in terms of performance—though Dr. McEwen is quick to point out our state of scientific ignorance. "No one has bothered to look at cognitive behavior and the effect of estrogen therapy in a long-term study." He emphasizes that the subjective experience of cloudy thinking at times during menopause can be equated, for instance, to jet lag: "It's mostly transient and certainly reversible."

Sure enough, when my writer friend from Colorado went to a gynecologist for her first pelvic exam in four years, the doctor said, "Your vaginal walls are bone-dry." It was immediately obvious from her age that she needed estrogen. "I feel infinitely better, more alert, more moist, more like my old self," she said. Having overcome her initial resistance to HRT, she now believes she will likely live a longer, healthier life. "You get on a track—with regular reminders to get mammograms and Pap smears. If something does go wrong, you have an early warning system set up to catch it."