A long-term cyclic plus tonic regimen of 17β-estradiol improves the ability to handle a high spatial working memory load in ovariectomized middle-aged female rats

Stephanie V. Koebele, Kenji J. Nishimura, Heather A. Bimonte-Nelson, Salma Kemmou, J. Bryce Ortiz, Jessica M. Judd, Cheryl D. Conrad

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The influence of estrogens on modifying cognition has been extensively studied, revealing that a wide array of factors can significantly impact cognition, including, but not limited to, subject age, estrogen exposure duration, administration mode, estrogen formulation, stress history, and progestogen presence. Less known is whether long-term, extended exposure to estrogens would benefit or otherwise impact cognition. The present study examined the effects of 17β-estradiol (E2) exposure for seven months, beginning in late adulthood and continuing into middle age, using a regimen of cyclic exposure (bi-monthly subcutaneous injection of 10 μg E2), or Cyclic+Tonic exposure (bi-monthly subcutaneous injection of 10 μg E2 + Silastic capsules of E2) in ovariectomized female Fischer-344-CDF rats. Subjects were tested on a battery of learning and memory tasks. All groups learned the water radial-arm maze (WRAM) and Morris water maze tasks in a similar fashion, regardless of hormone treatment regimen. In the asymptotic phase of the WRAM, rats administered a Cyclic+Tonic E2 regimen showed enhanced performance when working memory was taxed compared to Vehicle and Cyclic E2 groups. Assessment of spatial memory on object placement and object recognition was not possible due to insufficient exploration of objects; however, the Cyclic+Tonic group showed increased total time spent exploring all objects compared to Vehicle-treated animals. Overall, these data demonstrate that long-term Cyclic+Tonic E2 exposure can result in some long-term cognitive benefits, at least in the spatial working memory domain, in a surgically menopausal rat model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104656
JournalHormones and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020



  • Age
  • Anxiety
  • Cognition
  • Estrogen
  • Exploration
  • Hormone therapy
  • Morris water maze
  • Motivation
  • Object placement
  • Water radial-arm maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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